Thursday, February 17, 2011

CEDAR RAPIDS- she said

Directed by Miguel Arteta
Written by Phil Johnston
Starring: Ed Helms, Anne Heche, John C. Reily, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alia Shawkat
Synopsis: Tom Lippe is charged with going to represent his insurance firm at the annual ASMI conference and bring home the Double Diamond reward.

There's always something special about the industry you work in whether it's teaching, insurance, sales or computers. Sometimes the people in your world annoy you, yet it's always comforting you have people to go to when they're problems, and they genuinely understand the ups and downs you may feel. CEDAR RAPIDS takes a look at the insurance world as our protagonist, Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), gets to go to the big ASMI conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa after the sudden death of the top seller at his company.

Lippe is everyone's friend in his spec-of-a-town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. He's probably has never left his town...ever. So what a thrill to represent his company and try to win the elusive Double Diamond award for the forth year in a row. He arrives and is shocked to find out that he's rooming with an African-American, oh snap! Because I guess he's never seen one in real life; only in stories. His other roommate for the conference is Dean Zigler (John C. Reilly) who almost becomes the cliche frat boy making many, many perverted sex jokes throughout the movie. Now, some of the jokes were genuinely funny, but the act got a little old. Anne Heche rounds out this group as Joan Ostrowski-Fox who settled down early, got a job, and the annual conference is the highlight of her year. Sad existence, but she makes the most of the cards she's dealt.

We follow the foursome throughout the conference and the antics that ensue from a conference talent show, scavenger hunt, Lippe's first time drinking and befriending local prostitute, Bree (Arrested Developement's Alia Shawkat). Because this is what one does at a conference. The charm of the movie comes from Lippe who's innocence is sad yet somehow likable. He even wears a money belt...a money belt in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? He's learning the ropes as the newcomer under the wings of his comrades, and like a kid away at college for the first time, cuts lose a bit. Helms lends himself as leading man material, yet I couldn't shake the fact I could've seen Steve Carell in this role. It was good but nothing special.

Overall I enjoyed CEDAR RAPIDS. It begins with laugh after laugh, then, like most comedies nowadays, turns to a more serious yet poignant tone. It's no Judd Apatow movie, but Helms and company's chemistry keep things interesting in what's really a lackluster story. The film reminded me of a Bloody Mary or Pina Colada because it's a drink that you enjoy every once in a while, but you don't drink all the time.

CEDAR RAPIDS is open in limited release.

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