Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche,
Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, Kurtwood
Smith, Alia Shawkat, Sigourney Weaver, Rob Corddry, Mike O'Malley, Thomas Lennon, Mike Birbiglia. Music by Christophe Beck.Screenplay by Phil Johnston. Directed by Miguel Arteta. 86 minutes.
Cedar Rapids is a
short, agreeably sweet, dirty comedy. Nothing
earth-shattering going on here, just a fair amount of laughs from a cast that's
easy to like. Ed Helms, Andy from The
Office, plays Tim Lippe, a very proper, very
naïve insurance salesman from tiny Brown Valley, Wis.
The movie follows Tim as Bill Krogstad
Stephen Root), his creepy boss, sends him to a convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
in the hopes of snagging a prestigious award. Krogstad
knows he's dealing with an innocent and tells Tim which bad influences to
For Tim, the hotel in Cedar Rapids is a lavish palace filled
with exotic pleasures — the pool has palm trees. Palm trees! Naturally,
Tim falls in with a colorful assortment of folks, including Dean Ziegler, the
worst bad influence at the convention, played with enjoyable "let's party" boobishness by John C. Reilly.
Other key figures include affable nerd Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and sultry Joan (Anne Heche), both fellow insurance agents, and the big bad
company pooh-bah (Kurtwood Smith). We also encounter
laid-back hooker Bree (Alia Shawkat),
and Tim's Brown Valley love interest Macy (Sigourney Weaver), who is happy to
have sex with Tim, but wishes he'd quit getting romantic about it.
I will indulge myself at this point by informing you that the hotel clerk Tim deals with is played by Mike Birbiglia. For those unfamiliar with the name, Birbiglia is a gifted humorist and immensely satisfying
storyteller widely respected in comedy circles for his Secret Public Journal, his hit off-Broadway show, Sleepwalk with Me and his appearances on
everything from David Letterman to Bob and Tom. The bad news is that Birbiglia only has a bit part that offers him no chance
— none! — to display his gifts. The good
news is that it gave me an excuse to tell you about him.
The humor in Cedar
Rapids is hit-or-miss, with Phil Johnston's screenplay relying on the cast
to carry viewers through the misses. The device mostly works. The contrast between the sweet-natured Tim and the raunchiness
around him is nicely used by director Miguel Arteta.
A number of laughs are drawn from the nearly-naked
bodies of Helms and Reilly, who most definitely have not spent any time in the
gym lately. One of my favorite scenes has Reilly spending an extended period
with his shirt off. The jokes in the scene, both verbal and visual, are good,
but what's funniest is watching Reilly arch his back drastically to make his
belly look as big as possible. Yes, the great John C. Reilly overacts with his
stomach! What fun.
Cedar Rapids is
low-key – except for the outrageous parts – and only an hour and 26
minutes long. It's not a great film, but it's easy to watch and delivers a
winning blend of naughty and nice. If they'd only given Mike Birbiglia a funny pay-off scene, I'd have given the movie
an extra half-star. Filmmakers take note.