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Cedar Rapids (2011)

February 22, 2011

8/10 Two-Diamond Awards

The first good movie of the year and a front-runner for Funniest Movie of the Year to boot.

Cedar Rapids is about a naive, goody-two-shoes insurance salesman from a small town in Michigan who winds up getting sent to the biggest insurance conference of the year in, you guessed it, Cedar Rapids where he has to try and win the biggest insurance award for his company back home. Completely out of his comfort zone and neon green behind the ears, our guy winds up rooming with the one insurance salesman he was told to stay away from and his innocent view of the world is gradually stripped away in a flood of booze, sex and corporate greed the likes of which he didn’t even know existed.

Folks, this has been a long month-and-a-half of not being able to go to the movies, ’cause when the options boil down to Justin Bieber’s bowl cut in 3D or lawn gnomes committing ritual suicide (I like to think that’s what happens at the end), there might as well not be an option at all. Yeah, it’s been nice saving money, but that’s about the only perk of a situation that’s been in dire need of fixing. So along comes this movie that I’d never heard of, never saw a trailer for and only went to because it was the first thing since December that wasn’t getting the same kind of reviews as Season of the Witch, and after such a long dry spell, I’m almost tempted to see it again.

As far as comedies go, I think this is a pretty damn good premise to go off of. Sure, it’s not exactly new territory, but watching grown men go from glorified Boy Scouts to fell-fledged deviants over the course of three Acts is something that I’ll always amuse the hell out of me. It’s simple, it’s not Hollywood, and come Spring when mankind is gonna be bombarded with more superhero movies than we’ll know what to do with, it’s nice to find something that set against a backdrop where Cedar Rapids, IA is the equivalent of one man’s Las Vegas. Doesn’t get more naive and goody-two-shoes than that.

And if you’re looking for  someone to play a naive, goody-to-shoes insurance salesman, Ed Helms is a pretty safe pick to go with. He’s good as our closer of the hour, Tim Lippe, he’s definitely got his moments and he’s definitely likable, but by the same token, Ed Helms sure is starting to feel like a one-trick pony these days. It’s Andy Bernard, it’s Stu Price, it’s that same super nice, painfully awkward shtick everyone expects from him, and while it’s good for what it is, it just makes it that much easier for John C. Reilly to steal the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I watch The Office every week and I’m still not tired of the shtick, but let me tell ya’, that spotlight is all Reilly’s here.

I never thought there would be a day where I’d end up ranting and raving about how bowled over I was by a John C. Reilly performance, but lo and behold, today is that very day. Two things have always stood out to me about Reilly: he’s one of the few guys out there who can actually pull off comedic and dramatic roles without getting pigeonholed, and no matter how good he is, he’s always playing second fiddle. And even though Helms is the lead here, the movie doesn’t start being an 8 until Reilly enters the picture as Dean Ziegler, bear hugs his black friend and asks a horrified Tim Lippe, “Haven’t you ever seen a chocolate and vanilla love sandwich before?” And as soon as he followed that up with, “Just wait ’til we get to the buttfuckin’!” I was done.

Every single time Reilly is on the screen, every time he opens his mouth to let out something as hilarious as it is wrong, I was laughing my ass off like no other. He’s got all the best lines, he makes insurance conventions look like Mardi Gras, and without him around, this movie would have been a dud. One of those double-edged situations where each time he’s not on-screen, you wonder where he is, and each time he’s back, you immediately start grinning like an idiot because you know it’s about to get fun. I know this isn’t exactly a mainstream release or anything, but it’s really great to see Reilly get his due for once. Folks, John C. Reilly is the man, the guy is obviously having a blast in the role and it’s just a blast to watch him do his thing from beginning to end. Not much else to say on the matter.

But as good as Reilly is at delivering his lines, Phil Johnston did one hell of a job writing ’em.

Love how understated everything is, love what an outrageous contrast Dean Ziegler is to everyone else around him, and it’s a great example of comedic writing that manages to be both totally inappropriate and surprisingly endearing. Tim Lippe’s got a swell little character arc, I cared about him and all his small town problems that felt like the weight of the world in this little bubble of his, and it somehow ends up being a genuine feel-good trip by the end. It ain’t often I walk away from a movie feeling good while simultaneously quoting lines that would make my grandmother pass out from shock, but that’s exactly what happened during the half-hour drive home. Not too shabby for a debut script.

Also can’t believe how many noteworthy folks were a part of this, too. Anne Heche finally crawled out from the rock she was hiding under after those alien abduction years and gives a solid, entertaining performance here as Lippe’s main squeeze of sorts; Stephen Root is choice here as Lippe’s boss; Sigourney Weaver is here as Lippe’s former teacher/current back door woman; never seen Isiah Whitlock Jr. before but he’s a rip as Lippe’s less offensive roommate; and I don’t know about you folks, but I for one am always down for a good Kurtwood Smith cameo. Very cool cast all in all, always nice to see heavyweights recognize quality over a fat paycheck.

I think part of it is that it’s just nice to go the theaters again and actually enjoy myself for a change, but good comedies are hard to come by these days and Cedar Rapids is definitely one of the more memorable ones. Can’t go wrong with good characters, a grounded, inspired story and what may very well be the best role of John C. Reilly’s career thus far. It’s not gonna get anywhere near the same kind of press as something like The Hangover 2 will in a few months, but it deserves to and it’s hands-down the only thing worth spending 12 bucks on right now. Definitely funnier than the first Hangover.

That’s right, I went there.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. HermioneO permalink
    February 22, 2011 2:41 pm

    Funnier than the Hangover? Really? Cool. I’ll have to see it. ‘Cause the Hangover was too funny.

  2. February 22, 2011 11:25 pm

    Ugh it’s been so long since I went to the theatre. I couldn’t tell you the last time I wrote a review for a new film.

  3. Ryan permalink
    February 23, 2011 9:01 am

    Shouldn’t be difficult to be better than The Hangover. That movie was way overrated

  4. February 23, 2011 6:44 pm

    Can’t read this yet…wanna see it. Your rating helps. 🙂

  5. Andrew permalink
    February 24, 2011 9:10 am

    Youve never seen Isiah Whitlock before? Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiit. Go watch the wire

    • February 24, 2011 9:17 am

      Hahaha. His character actually makes a couple references to The Wire. Does he play Omar by chance? If so, that’d be even more hilarious.

      • February 26, 2011 3:32 pm

        Isiah Whitlock plays Senator Clay Davis on The Wire. Dude, if you haven’t seen that show you gotta give it a go ASAP! Omar is a badass muhfucka, by the way. One of the best characters on any TV show period.

        I can’t wait to see this movie, and I am even more excited after hearing there are some references to The Wire. Haha. Anyway, great review, glad to know there is at least one good movie to come out so far this year.

      • February 28, 2011 1:50 pm

        I know, I know. I suck in regards to picking up the slack in the TV department. Got an enormous To See list these days and that’s definitely in the Top Three. One of these days…

        And thanks, man. This is the only thing worth seeing by a long shot. Fucking hilarious, get to it.

  6. March 11, 2011 11:20 am

    Good to see this getting the love it deserves. I had no expectations for this small-in-scope, unassuming comedy, and that made the experience all the better for me. Really funny and touching movie about Tim growing up (something that seems to be a major theme in a lot of popular comedies today) and shedding his worldly naivete along the way; Helms kills, and his supporting cast is on fire with him. I thought this was a really great way to start of 2011, so here’s hoping the year keeps up the momentum.

    If there was one thing this was lacking, it was more screen time for Whitlock, who I felt didn’t really get enough space to stretch his legs. Which is too bad, because his Omar Little impression is absolutely devastating. Made me laugh more than anything else in a film that’s filled with a lot of good punchlines.

    • March 14, 2011 12:30 pm

      Right there with ya’, man. More folks need to get on the bandwagon, hopefully it’ll get some kind of press when it eventually hits DVD. Really was hilarious though, John C. Reilly absolutely owned this for me.

      And I really need to watch The Wire, huh? Swear I’ll get to it as soon as I finish with Battlestar Galactica.


  1. The Best Movies of 2011: #20 – #1 « Cut The Crap Movie Reviews

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