Now Showing: Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is the story of Tim Lippe (Ed Helmes), a by-the-book insurance agent who has to go to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to present at an insurance conference. Three past attendees of the convention teach Tim their more free-spirited ways.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m tough on comedies in general. In fact, I seem to be getting a rep as a movie snob… (See: Easy A and No Strings Attached). But at the end of the day, all I really want is a comedy that will respect its audience. I think Cedar Rapids is the perfect example of that.
The writing is sharp, but it is also backed up by a clear plot that never disappears for the sake of a joke. It doesn’t cater to what it could so easily be – a fish-out-of-water story or a buddy comedy. And, luckily the cast members who are often known for their overzealous acting style (Ed Helms, John C. Reilly), really give great performances, even understated at times. Cedar Rapids refuses to dumb itself down for its audience. And it certainly won’t overwhelm you with endless strings of pop culture references just for a laugh.
I love Ed Helms, but when I saw the trailer for this film, I worried that he might have started to create an acting niche for himself. After all, we all saw The Hangover. We know that he can play a straight shooter who goes through some crazy partying and comes out the other side a changed man. But, after I saw Cedar Rapids, I realized that Helms isn’t falling into a niche; rather, his character from The Hangover can be viewed as an oversimplified version of Tim Lippe. Helms has us cheering for Lippe from the beginning, but it comes from a much subtler place. We’re never hit over the head with Lippe’s likability; instead, Helms plays him with endearing naïveté that never comes across as unnatural.
John C. Reilly does a lovely job as well. He takes on a role that should encourage many comparisons to his roles in Step Brothers and Talladega Nights, but he gives his character a lot of great quirks that are completely role-specific. I would like to mention the hilarious The Wire references that Isiah Whitlock Jr. has – he was actually a cast member on HBO’s The Wire and there are a couple of nods to that.
Cedar Rapids isn’t just another buddy-comedy that you’ve seen a million times. Instead, it’s a short and sweet story that will make you laugh. The writing is sharp, the acting isn’t overdone, and unrealistic situations aren’t used for a cheap laugh.
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