Comedy 'Cedar Rapids' enjoyable surprise
Anne Heche and Ed Helms in a scene from "Cedar Rapids."
Tim Lippe is a nerdy, sheltered individual whose life changes when he goes to an insurance convention in the big city of Cedar Rapids in the unexpectedly good comedy “Cedar Rapids.”
The insurance chain emphasizes God, family and doing right by the customer. Yes, the agents could sell more insurance than to unsuspecting customers, but they strive to be honest.
Ed Helmes plays Lippe, who goes to the conference in order to retain the top insurance award for their little agency in Brown Valley, Wis. A fellow agent usually attended the conference, but he died accidentally while trying to choke himself during a sexual act.
Tim is naive. He sleeps regularly with his old seventh-grade teacher, played by Sigourney Weaver.
As a youngster, he was the guy expected to go places in the world, but instead he works to help others achieve their dreams.
His life changes in a big way when he lands in Cedar Rapids.
A prostitute asks for a cigarette as a come-on to determine if he might be a customer. But Tim is oblivious to her occupation, tells her smoking is bad and offers her some butterscotch candy.
He shares a suite at the convention with conventional agent Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and party-hardy Dean Ziegler, played by John C. Reilly.
Add into the mix Anne Heche, who plays Joan Ostrowski-Fox, who is married with children but uses the convention to find a sex partner for the weekend.
Kurtwood Smith plays the paternal president of the company. Before they eat, he leads them in prayer. He gives fatherly advice.
Tim must do a one-on-one presentation to Smith’s character in order to retain the big award and thus insure the viability of the franchise.
The film has some of the raunchiness of “The Hangover” and its ilk, but is slightly more conventional.
That doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth the effort. I found it on HBO’s on demand channel and was surprised how much I liked the film.
Everybody is out to achieve their own goals, but they appear to be there to help their fellow agents as well.
Of course, not everything is as it seems.
There is a humanity to the Ziegler character you didn’t expect and the plot has enough unexpected twists and turns to keep you entertained.
The characters also are multi-dimensional. You can see their different sides and they offer some surprises, even the prostitute.
I was not expecting a whole lot from the film but was pleasantly surprised.
The nerdy Helms’ character really helped to give the film an extra depth of humanity that made it unique and enjoyable.
But keep in mind this isn’t the Waltons of insurance agents. There’s plenty in the film to give it the R rating.
- Directed by Miquel Arteta
- Written by Phil Johnston
- Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use
- Runtime: 87 minutes
- 3 stars out of 4