Cedar Rapids is a comedy that shares some similarities to The Hangover aside from just Ed Helms, who seems a lot like Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin. It is about a man who must come out of his shell to stand up for what he believes is the right thing to do. Always raunchy, often funny, but rarely more than bland.
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a simple man from Brown Valley, Wisconsin who is easily entertained by the little things in life and clearly has not ventured far from home. Case in point when he rents a car he is ecstatic to find out it is a shiny red Chevrolet Cobalt, a fairly basic family sedan. He has never flown in an airplane nor stayed in a hotel before.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Tim is so sheltered is because of how socially awkward the guy is or at the very least it does not help matters. He does not have much of a sense of humor and is the type that probably can count his sins on one hand. Although, it is not a sin to have regular intercourse with your junior high school teacher (Sigourney Weaver), it is a bit odd.
Selling insurance is something that he excels in because his clients know they can trust him. He takes a lot of pride in working for Brown Star Insurance, so when an opportunity to win the prestigious Two Diamond Award arises, his boss Bill (Stephen Root) assigns him to go.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa is where the convention is held for this award so that is where Tim must travel to. Cedar Rapids to Tim is like Las Vegas to most people; it is where people from this convention go to get away from their daily problems via partying because regret does not exist there. One even says, “What happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids.”
For guidance purposes, Bill gives Tim a list of who to avoid and who to stick with at this convention. The list of people to stick with is plentiful while only one person is labeled to avoid and his name is Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly). He is known as a poacher, known in the insurance industry as someone who steals clients.
When Tim arrives in Cedar Rapids he thinks the two-star hotel’s lobby is incredible and thinks the chlorine smell of the pool is a luxury. Tim is very leery about given his credit card to the front desk even though it is a standard procedure among all hotels. When he arrives at his room he is taken aback when someone is in there. Although, he seems he is more uncomfortable about the man being African American than simply a person in his room.
This man turns out to be his roommate. He is a “straight-shooter” named Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) from the St. Cloud, Minnesota area. Ronald was on Bill’s list as someone to stick with so Tim knows he is no threat. Ronald informs Tim of some good and bad news. The good news is that they got a junior suite upgrade because the hotel was running out of rooms. The bad news is they will be getting another roommate. I bet it would only take you one guess to figure out who it will be. That is correct, Dean Ziegler.
Dean Ziegler best describes his own self, “What isn’t wrong with me? I talk too much, I drink too much, I weigh too much. I piss people off.” That in a nutshell is Dean Ziegler. A true rebel who likes to party and can easily talk you into something you do not want to do. He is everything that Tim is not, a dangerous man that easily influences people like Tim.
Tim wants the relationship with his old teacher to continue but she is fresh off a divorce. They want two completely different things, she wants to have some fun and he wants to settle down. It is when she uses a metaphor of a bird nudging her young birds to fly away from the nest does he finally understand he needs to let go of her.
That seems to be a turning point for Tim’s character, no longer is he tied down, instead he realizes he is free. But it would not be the last time he has to question is morals. Tim finds out the real way the award is won and must rely on help from people he least expected.
The film’s director, Miguel Arteta, embellishes the portrayal of the Midwest like films such as Fargo have done in the past. However, that is expected in movies to do so. For the most part Arteta does a good job at showing stereotypical rural living Midwestern personality traits; trustworthy, simple, and friendly.
Ed Helms does an excellent job in his first major leading role in film. He plays the sheltered and reserved guy well and does a good job showing his other side when the film calls for it. As for John C. Reilly, I personally think he is best when serious, despite mostly playing wacky roles as of late. It is not to say he does not do funny well, because he does, I just think his serious work is superior. If you liked his roles in Step Brothers, Walk Hard and Talladega Nights, you will love him here.
Cedar Rapids receives most of its humor from crude one-liners that are sure you make you crack a smile more than once. Looking at the whole picture, the funny scenes and great characters are slightly overshadowed by the poor storyline. Even by typical comedy standards it felt too straight forward. Even though there were some funny scenes throughout, there were not enough to cover up for the lack of story.