Director: Miguel Arteta
Cast: Ed Helms, John C.Reilly, Isiah Witlock Jr. and Anne Heche
Running Time: 86 minutes
A trend is emerging, a trend that I don’t much care for. In the last film I watched, I was treated to a Ken doll crotched Toby Jones prancing around Antrim, a vision I still haven’t managed to shake away yet, no matter how many sessions of ECT or self lobotomies I’ve attempted. Now I have Kurtwood Smith’s 67 year old saggy ass to keep it company, I fear I may never be able to watch Robocop again which is most definitely not cool at all. I thought the sight of Murphy being splattered into the concrete by a choir of shotgun blasts was disturbing, it now pales in comparison. I only wonder what I may be privy to next, I hear a freshly waxed Robin Williams is now doing full frontal nudity scenes. One can only hope.
In Cedar Rapids, Tim Lippe – The US Office and The Hangover’s Ed Helms – is a shy yet friendly living in a small town in Wisconsin and a lifer in the insurance business. Loyal to his customers and those around him, his one vice is a hilarious relationship with his former high school teacher Macy Vanderhei – a woman fresh from divorce and only looking for fun – who he claims to be pre-engaged to. When a co-worker dies from auto erotic asphyxiation, it’s up to Lippe to restore faith in the Christian values insurance company at a conference in Cedar Rapids, Ohio. He is given one golden rule. Avoid Dean Ziegler (John C.Reilly). He doesn’t.
After the uneven and limp Youth In Revolt, director of the wonderful The Good Girl, Miguel Arteta, returns with a straight forward comedy with some indie trimmings. Cedar Rapids begins as a low-fi comedy, smartly capturing the sometimes inane existence of office desk jobs and small town America. All bets are off though as John C.Reilly’s comedic juggernaut Ziegler enters the fray. His loud, crass and vulgar performance is the standout highlight, at times not leaving anyone else in the film any time to shine.
That’s not to say this a weak supporting cast, much the opposite. Helms and Reilly are backed up by a diverse and hilarious cast such as Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat, a clever Sigourney Weaver cameo and Isiah Whitlock Jr, best known as The Wire’s Clay “Sheeeeeeeeeit” Davis who impersonates Omar from the show at one point. The only misfire is Anne Heche’s morally ambiguous Joan, a married with children insurance agent and temporary love interest for Lippe who sees Cedar Rapids as her excuse to indulge in all her carnal desires.
Cedar Rapids is something of a sleeper hit. It spent years as a script waiting to be made, even rating high on the 2009 Hollywood Blacklist. Be happy it’s here though. While a comic tour de force, it’s a film with a heart firmly at the centre with Helms more than capable of driving the film and leaving Reilly to get all the plaudids.