A Middle-Aged Sales Rep Goes Wild in Cedar Rapids
Fresh from Sundance, Miguel Artetas amiable Cedar Rapids is a mild comedy of embarrassment, set in the dark heart of Middle America and starring sitcom secondario Ed Helms (The Offices obnoxious angry salesman Andy Bernard) as Tim Lippe, a prematurely middle-aged man-child. Taking an airplane for the first time in his life, the country mouse goes to town: As the most idealistic insurance salesman in Brown River, Wisconsin, Lippe is dispatched by his dyspeptic boss to rep the company at an annual convention in Iowas second city, Cedar Rapids.
Do the bright lights bedazzle this teetotaling paradigm of cheerful repressiona big bland hunk of cheese with a ruglike coiffure and toothy, constricted grin? Not quite the 40-year-old virgin that his TV colleague Steve Carell played in 2005, Helms nicey-nice Lippe lives out a 12-year-olds Oedipal fantasy, enjoying a weekly matinee with his old junior high school teacher Mrs. Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver). Still, hes naïve enough to mistake the solicitation of the corn-fed hooker lurking outside Cedar Rapids generic convention hotel for simple friendliness, and sufficiently lacking in savoir faire to be startled speechless upon discovering that hes bunking with a black man (Isaiah Whitlock Jr., playing against his part on The Wire), who appears to be even more square than he.
Far worse from the standpoint of Lippes moral code, the third roomie turns out to be the playboy of the Midwestern world: Dean Deanzie Ziegler (John C. Reilly). An irrepressible, loudmouthed vulgarian against whom Lippe has been specifically warned, Deanzie has no compunction with regard to taking a nip at breakfast while the rest of the convened insurance salesmen are holding hands to say grace under the direction of their self-righteous president Orin Helgesson (Kurtwood Smith); like everyone else at the convention, Deanzie communicates in well-worn clichés, although his are a toxic cocktail of sexual innuendo and insinuating barstool bonhomie. (Reilly, whose face here resembles a flayed chunk of tandoori chicken, revels as the designated tempter in the conventions positive-thinking, officially Christian paradise.)
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Opens February 11
With every other joke based on Lippes reactions or the reactions those elicit (and the rest based on Helgessons hypocritical bromides), Cedar Rapids is something of an extended workplace ensemble-com. Its actually less discomfiting than either Chuck & Buck or The Good Girl, the cartoonish pair of mad-pash character studies that Arteta directed from Mike Whites scripts in the early 00s. For all his inchoate yearnings, Lippe never entirely loses control; neither does the movies most emotionally complicated character, Anne Heches insurance-selling good-time gal, with whom Lippe finds himself partnered in the conventions get-acquainted scavenger hunt. Their date escalates from Japanese food to crashing a lesbian wedding to drunkenly jumping in the hotel pool, and more. The humiliating spectacle of male infantilism peaks with Lippes paralyzed morning-after episode, replete with hysterical phone call to Mrs. Vanderhei.
Time to man up. Welcome to the jungle, Timbo, Deanzie congratulates Lippe when the Brown River innocent realizes that not everything in Cedar Rapids is as kosher as it might seem. The insurance mans educationwhich, as a bonus to the viewer, includes one last crystal-meth bacchanalmakes for some lively farce before the obligatory cringe-inducing Capra-worthy closer.
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