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Monday, March 21, 2011  

M. Ovie Reviews: Cedar Rapids

I thought Cedar Rapids was going to be two hours of "Hey, look at the rube!" And, okay, I was actually kind of down with that. The small-town-boy-in-the-big-city thing may be played, but if the aforementioned big city is Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that's a whole new level of rubitude.

Turns out it's more like a coming of age story, if you can have a coming of age story where the lead isn't far from forty. Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a naïve, idealistic, second-string insurance agent from Brown Star Insurance of Brown Valley, Wisconsin (a brace of self-contained ass jokes that are about as subtle as the movie's cruder gags get). He really only has one vice, and even that one doesn't count because he thinks he's going to marry her.

So an unlikely series of events means Tim is sent for the first time to represent his agency at a conference in Cedar Rapids. His boss, played by Stephen Root, is desperate to once more win the conference's "Two Diamond" award, whose very name is a constant reminder of how low-stakes this all really is to anyone who's not involved in it. Which is…not Tim.

Now, as we've learned from Mark Twain, the most corruptible people in the world are those who have never been exposed to corrupting influences. Thus we know that when Helms is sent to Cedar Rapids, it's only going to be a matter of time before he's drinking, developing inappropriate relationships with a married woman and a prostitute, paying bribes, smoking crack, playing way too many scenes without enough clothes on, and using salty language like "bullroar." But of course, this is a feel-good movie, which means that even if the big, bad world changes him, he changes it right back, just a little. Please try not to puke now.

I think this would make an interesting double feature with Up In The Air. Compare Ryan Bingham, who's so seasoned he can get through security in the first ten seconds of his movie, to Tim Lippe, who thinks he doesn't have to because he's friends with the TSA guy. And that's just the beginning of their diametrically opposed approaches to business travel and the perks and dangers that go with it. The little rental car that Tim pronounces "sweet!" would be a deal-breaker for Ryan. But then Ryan has a deal-breaker that isn't one for Tim, romantically, so there's that.

However, with its odd trio of salesmen thrown together in a Midwestern hotel suite, Cedar Rapids reminds me of nothing so much as 1999'sThe Big Kahuna, in which the characters played in this movie by Helms, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and John C. Reilly were played by Peter Facinelli, Danny DeVito, and Kevin Spacey respectively. But I won't hold that against Cedar Rapids. The Big Kahuna was a bad one-act play turned into a worse movie. In fact, I'd say Cedar Rapids is what you'd get if you took out The Big Kahuna's single-track philosophical arguments and replaced them with jokes, more (and more interesting) characters, additional locations, fun adventures, moral dilemmas, interesting stuff, and other good reasons to see movies.

posted by M. Giant 9:48 PM 0 comments


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