Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cedar Rapids

Ed Helms, fresh off his portrayal as an uptight dentist who cuts loose in Vegas in The Hangover, plays an uptight insurance agent who cuts loose in Cedar Rapids in the indie comedy Cedar Rapids.

Heh. I just realized that connection as I was typing this.

This is an odd little comedy featuring Helms as a stunted insurance agent named Tim Lippe who looks up to the "high powered" agent in his little town of Brown River, Wisconsin, and who pines to marry his once-a-week lover—his former sixth grade teacher who treats him like a child when she's not using him for no-strings-attached sex.

The catalyst for the story is that the high-powered agent is found dead (in his bathroom, a victim of auto-erotic asphyxiation) and Tim has to represent his company at the Two Diamonds award ceremony in the big city—Cedar Rapids. Before he leaves, his boss (Stephen Root) warns him away from insurance pariah Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) who's already set about poaching clients from the asphyxiated agent.

When he gets to Cedar Rapids, he meets his roommate—also his first black person, apparently—mild mannered Ronald Wilkes (Isaiah Whitlock Jr., of "The Wire", which is a running gag), and gets to experience his upgraded suite at the low cost of having to share the room with another roommate.

Well, you see where this is going: It's none other than Dean Ziegler, a crude, foul sumbitch, who seems intent on offending the conservative Christian promoter (Kurtwood Smith) and groping anything remotely female. Anne Heche rounds out the crew as the oddly sexy agent from whom Cedar Rapids represents her one chance a year to cut loose.

The movie proceeds in this fashion from a sort of Woody Allen-esque awkwardness to a wild not-quite-Hangover-esque bacchanalia to something sort of like a caper film. It's a genial (if not rollicking) trip, made pleasant by the general good-nature of the main characters and the clear delineation of the film's few villains.

Particularly touching is Tim Lippe's recounting of how he came to want to be an agent. Where the others seem to have fallen in to it, or done it after failing at other things, Lippe sees agents as heroic—a view of agents we do not get much these days, but one which is far more valid than that of the agent as rapacious pirate of others' misfortunes.

Also satisfying is Lippe's growth from idealistic, naive child to real man with real ambitions—becoming more aware without becoming cynical or losing his ideals.

I liked it and The Boy was also not displeased.


  1. Thanks blake, I think I'll like it.
    I have a vivid memory of Cedar Rapids. I drove through there once on my way back to Wisconsin from Colorado. I pulled up to a traffic light alongside a pickup truck with a bunch of teens riding in the back. It was summer and I had all the windows down.

    Whatcha doin?" I asked

    "Just gettin' fucked-up" answered a guy, grinning and hoisting a beer.

    You've been more quiescent than usual lately.

  2. Just watched it. Great recommend blake. I owes you one.


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