Cedar Rapids: Blu-ray review
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
Less Bright Lights, Big City, and more bright lights, mid-sized town ....
Ed Helms' career has some marked similarities to that of celebrated funnyman Steve Carell. Both started as news correspondents on the hilarious and cutting-edge 'The Daily Show'. Both went from there to The Office, and both established their indie street-cred in well-respected indie movies: Carell as the foremost living Proust expert in Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Ed Helms as Tim Lippe in Cedar Rapids. Let's hope that Helms' next film proves to be his version of The 40-Year-Old Virgin – because in any of his roles, he's quite talented, and genuinely likeable. In fact, there are many similarities between Ed Helms' character Tim in the film, and his character Andy on The Office. Both are LL Bean outlet shoppers, and both are hopeless romantics (remember Andy and Angela's engagement?) And neither character is able to turn down an opportunity to sing a cappella.
The story centers around brown-suited Tim Lippe, of Brown Star Insurance, of Brown Valley Wisconsin. (Have you ever heard a more fitting reference to the a-hole of the universe?) Tim isn't even the top salesman, nor is he the company's first choice of who to send to the annual convention in Cedar Rapids. However, when duty calls (in the form of the auto-erotic asphyxiation of the top salesman), Tim leaves Brown Valley behind (pun intended) to take on the responsibility , even though he clearly has difficulty leaving his comfort zone.
The story really centers around Tim's initial innocence, and his growth into a slightly more worldly person. He has problems with things that seem second nature to the rest of us: his reluctance to remove shoes at airport or give his credit card at hotel. (That being said, I recently self-identified as an American at Heathrow, not by my accent, but by the fact I took my shoes off so readily and unthinkingly. The security agent knew right away, and laughed.) Still, Tim Lippe learns that you can be a nice guy without a) taking orders all the time and b) playing by the rules. He loses some innocence, but in the end, he doesn't lose that niceness. God love him.
The film is really a series of small moments, most of which come courtesy of the supporting cast. Sigourney Weaver shines, from motherly to loverly in her sweetly creepy relationship with Tim. Isiah Whitlock (The Wire) creates an extraordinary characterization of a Midwestern 'Afro-American' agent named Ronald Wilkes. John C. Reilly reverts to type as an obnoxious drunk, but goes on the opposite journey as Ed Helms' Tim – from drinking, swearing, obnoxious and awful to a caring, supportive friend. Just scratch the surface. And ignore the tasteless bar jokes.
Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) is surprisingly good as the hooker with a heart, who Tim sweetly tries to convert from alcohol to butterscotch candies. Whoever did the casting and dyed her hair (badly, blonde) were super geniuses. Kurtwood Smith (That 70's Show) as the main bad guy, the classic Dirty Judge - he's been kicking butt as a bad guy ever since Robocop (1987). Slightly less evil, but still bad, is Stephen Root (NewsRadio) as Tim's pushy boss from BrownStar Insurance.
Anne Heche was probably the weakest character. I went into it not loving her as an actress, and her character's hook as a responsible parent who leaves real life behind one week per year, I found really unsympathetic. But as a testament to her abilities and to the film itself– even though I liked her character the least, I actually did like her in the end.
So the film only has a couple (one, outstanding) laugh-out-loud moments. And the grand finale is definitely predictable, and a bit contrived. But Cedar Rapids is great, because it doesn't pretend to be more than it is. A sweet story about a nice guy's journey – he comes, and sees, and conquers. And goes home a bit wiser, a bit more worldly, but still as upstanding and gosh-darnit nice as before.
I could have done without seeing the dad from That 70's Show's butt, though.
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