Terrific comic performances in a movie that will never be known for its subtlety.

Cedar Rapids

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            Can innocent charm and raunchy humor co-exist simultaneously on screen? That's Cedar Rapids, and it works. You may be laughing against your better judgment, but you'll laugh often during the merciless stream of verbal and visual porn that peppers the audience.
            Brown Valley, Wisconsin is the town; Brown Star Insurance is the company; Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is the innocent; and Cedar Rapids is the big city hosting the annual insurance convention that will reward one company for "good Christian behavior." When Brown Star's convention rep dies in a bathroom sex game, the CEO reaches down to tap Tim, a junior guy who has never before dared dream of such an honor. He's going to Cedar Rapids.
            At the moment, Tim is having an affair with his former grade school teacher, Macy (Sigourney Weaver). Aside from his somewhat adult enjoyment of sleeping with the woman who taught him about the rain forest when he was ten, Tim is still a wide eyed boy who slips now and then and calls her Mrs. Vanderhei. He is also an idealist who believes in the power of the insurance industry to do good for humanity. Insurance agents, you see, can help people when disaster strikes, and he will tend his flock. "I'll take care of you," he assures a young couple.
            After one last dalliance with Macy, our earnest idealist readies himself for his first airplane ride. Sitting by the emergency door, he volunteers to help the flight attendant in the event of catastrophe, "I'll be there," he says, and, awestruck, looks out the window at the miracle of flight. As our ingenuous hero checks in at the hotel, we meet the people who will alternately bedevil and befriend him. Ron (Isiah Whitlock Jr) is the dignified agency owner who's seen it all before and steps up as Tim's protector. Deanzie (John C. Reilly) is a foul mouthed reprobate, incapable of making it through a sentence without at least one allusion so crude it brings a small involuntary eruption of laughter from a disbelieving audience. Joan (Anne Heche) is another conventioneer far away from home and family - "Whatever I do or say stays in Cedar Rapids."
            We will watch our new friends navigate a scavenger hunt for the grand prize of a $45 gift card to the Kiku Restaurant in the West View Mall. We will watch Tim engulfed at various times by drugs, alcohol, and women (Alia Shawkat as Bree). And we will have the great pleasure of watching his new best friends rescue him whenever he slips. Isiah Whitlock Jr., John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche give terrific comic performances in a movie that will never be known for subtlety. Ed Helms' makes Tim a real winner as he loses and then reclaims his idealism. When he is rewarded on the flight home with not one but two bags of honey roasted peanuts, we rejoice in his victory.

 


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