Cedar Rapids (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Danny LIKEIn my real life, far away from the confines of this website, I am intimately familiar with the insurance industry. Its highs, its lows, its seediness, its insanity.

That's why, when entering Cedar Rapids and finding it not just a movie about a dim witted nice-guy, but a dim witted nice-guy who sells insurance and does so because he thinks it's the right thing to do-- well, it's a nice surprise is all.

Ed Helms plays the aforementioned dim witted fellow, who goes by the name of Tim. He's spent most of his life in the small town of Brown Valley, and since losing both of his parents at a young age has been caught in a state of arrested development. (Ironic side note: yes, this movie does have a star of "Arrested Development" in it.) He believes he has the perfect life: the number two insurance agent at a hometown insurance agency, doing a job he's proud of, and he gets to go home and sleep with his eighth grade math teacher.

And then they run into this nutcase.

This routine gets thrown through a loop when he's pressed into going to an annual insurance conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Eager to prove himself, Tim is almost immediately out of his depths as he takes his first plane trip and finds himself roomed with all-business Ron (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and all-party Ziegler (John C. Reilly). Ron's restraint and Ziegler's own desire to self destruct intersect with Tim's increasingly expanded horizons in an dangerous series of escapades.

What follows is a gentle, bittersweet film. A lot of the elements present here seem tailor made for something more raucous, but Cedar Rapids shows remarkable restraint throughout as each character's bravado is equally matched with a painful touch of reality. Ron's a workaholic, Ziegler's compensating for a divorce, and the pretty girl who seems eager to make Tim's acquaintance (Anne Heche) is spending her one week a year free from her husband and children.

Tim's ability to see the good in everything, even in the insurance industry, informs a lot of both how the film views the world and its characters. His exposure to the big city is never played as him being ignorant, but hurt from the premature deaths of his parents. This hurt only amplifies throughout the movie, and it speaks a lot to how beautifully Helms plays this that, despite sleeping in a double bed and keeping a security wallet on himself at all times, he never escalates into becoming a corny cliche. I'm sure the ease of doing so may have been tempting, so I applaud them for avoiding it.

Not that he acts like any more of a grown up in his relationshiips.

Every character gets a chance to breathe inĀ Cedar Rapids, and each is given their moment to shine. I spent most of the movie being reminded of Up in the Air, only to see Cedar Rapids going for the cooler, sweeter approach than the unwieldy charms of the other film had. This is a better movie in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that this one doesn't trumpet its importance on its sleeve.

Cedar Rapids feels a bit messy, but subdued in what it wants to accomplish. It's rare that a comedy that should be this good is better than even that.

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Posted by Danny

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