Cedar Rapids: Perfect Blend of Quirk & Raunch

18 02 2011

Ed Helms, of The Office and The Hangover fame, finally gets a chance to shine as the leading man in Cedar Rapids, alongside Anne Heche and John C. Reilly. Here’s the breakdown:

Tim Lippe (Helms) is an insurance salesman from a small town in Iowa. When he unexpectedly is sent to the annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Tim must make his company proud – by bringing home the convention’s top award. To help him along the way are fellow attendees Dean (Reilly), Joan (Heche) and Ronald (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.). But Tim finds Cedar Rapids to be a lot more than he bargained for.

The Monkey: Ed Helms proves he can carry a movie. He’s riotously funny, to be sure, but it’s his ability to maintain an emotional connection with the audience that makes him so successful. His “nerd with the heart of gold,” while done before, felt fresh and genuine. Phil Johnston’s script was a brilliant exercise in character development, but it was Helms’ performance that drove it home, making the story and character arcs believable and enjoyable.

Despite Helms’ solid performance, the supporting cast nearly upstaged him. John C. Reilly stole the show as the irreverent, boozing, womanizer, Dean. Reilly was over-the-top, yet surprisingly grounded, especially during the film’s more touching scenes. Dean could have been played to type, but Reilly gave the character just the right amount of heart to make him palatable and thoroughly memorable. Not to mention the fact that he delivered some of the most hilarious and sure to be oft-quoted lines of recent comedy memory. Heche’s Joan was a wonderfully complicated and three-dimensional version of the R-comedy female. She was funny and honest, with her heart on her sleeve and her mind in the gutter.

Cedar Rapids was peppered with cameos: Sigourney Weaver as Tim’s older lover; Rob Corddry as Gary the thug; and an uncredited Thomas Lennon as Tim’s convention-going predecessor.

Surprisingly, Cedar Rapids paired its engaging cast with an equally engaging script. The story was refreshingly unpredictable (has there ever been a movie made about an insurance convention?) and for every raunchy joke, there was a solid bit of emotional storytelling to go along with it – a rarity of the highest degree.

The Weasel: There was a subplot with a prositute, Bree (Alia Shawkat), which was either underdeveloped or unnecessary. And as original as the story was, the “socially-stunted-nerd-finds-his-way-in-the-world” theme was anything but.

Cedar Rapids delivers heart and humor in bucket loads and is sure to become an R-comedy favorite.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Will Cedar Rapids join the ranks of popular comedies like The Hangover and The 40-Year-Old Virgin? Would you want to see Ed Helms and John C. Reilly team-up for another comedy romp? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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