Review: Cedar Rapids

daniel cohen makes his debut with a review of the new film Cedar Rapids

Plot: Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) attends his first insurance convention, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Usually a straight-laced and reserved guy, he rooms with the misfit Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and also learns his company’s past awards may be stripped after the strange death of his company’s head-honcho.

Cedar Rapids is one of those movies that tries to straddle the line between silly comedy and serious moments. I’m usually not a fan of that kind of thing (See Adam Sandler’s Click). Just pick a genre, for crying out loud. However, Cedar Rapids managed to find a good balance. This is a pretty goofy movie for the most part but introduces some subtle dramatic moments that aren’t overplayed. But most importantly, it’s got some real good characters.

The characters are the film’s biggest strength — they’re very likable. I cringed when I saw the trailer because of John C. Reilly. Oh, here we go. He’s going to be Will Ferrell Jr. again. Reilly is actually a very good character here, and his wild-boy moments are tamed for the most part and pretty funny. My favorite character and performance by far was Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Ronald Wilkes, one of the other conventioneers Lippe befriends. He’s got great comic timing and delivery. There’s an issue about his character regarding romantic relationships that’s subtlety addressed once and never brought up again or resolved that was kind of lazy writing, but he’s a funny character nonetheless. Anne Heche and Stephen Root are also very strong.

Unfortunately, the real weakness of the film was Helm’s character. Now, Helms is very funny — nothing wrong with the performance. He shows here he can carry a comedic film. But his character is inconsistent. The real crux of the story is that Lippe is this guy who’s never really left his comfort zone. He seems like a child and immature when he’s with Macy (Sigourney Weaver), who he claims he’s “pre-engaged” with, even though it’s clear Macy just wants to have fun. But there are other times when he’s mature and confident with Joan, Heche’s character. They also add these little quirks about him, like not wanting to give the hotel a credit card to put on file. In a lot of these little scenes, the comedy doesn’t work well at all. His character is just odd and all over the place. I couldn’t get a good read on who he was. And of course, being a straight-laced guy who never drinks, they have to have the eventual scene where he goes overboard and freaks out. Although much like Reilly’s performance, it wasn’t too much in your face.

This is a solid comedy where the jokes usually hit. It’s a little rough in the first 10 minutes, but once we get to Cedar Rapids, it picks up. It’s a very predictable movie, but it moves at a fast pace. We don’t dwell on a lot of crap. Another bone I have to pick though is that Rob Corddry (the really funny guy from Hot Tub Time Machine) makes a cameo and is completely wasted. What the hell! He’s got, like, one funny line. I hate missed cameo opportunities.

Grade: 7 out of 10 (Good)

Check out more of Dan Cohen’s movie reviews and features on his blog

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.


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