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MOVIE REVIEW: Cedar Rapids

Alexander Payne's film, starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver

  • Cedar Rapids
  • Ed Helms as Tim Lippe in "Cedar Rapids."
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Anne Heche as Joan Ostrowski-Fox and Ed Helms as Tim Lippe in "Cedar Rapids."
  • Anne Heche as Joan Ostrowski-Fox and Ed Helms as Tim Lippe in "Cedar Rapids."
  • A scene from "Cedar Rapids."
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This movie takes place in a small town in Iowa, yet the jokes aren’t about the goofy local residents. The insurance salesmen at the convention are the buffoons.

This cast is perfect. Ed Helms at the lead. John C. Reilly is someone we laugh at any time he enters a scene. Thomas Lennon (Reno 911) always cracks up in his cameos. Anne Heche plays a nut-job, perfect casting there. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. is hysterical as the straight man, although it’s unfortunate that many of his funny scenes are in the trailers (and it’s cheating having him make a joke aboutThe Wire, when he’s actually on that show). Stephen Root was wasted in a role that would’ve gone to Rip Torn had this been made 15 years ago. Rob Corddry, one of Helms’ fellowDaily Showcorrespondents, is great in his small role as a crazy partier. Kurtwood Smith, who you'll recognize as the father fromThat 70s Show, was great as the insurance guru everyone is trying to impress (well, everyone but Reilly).

And Sigourney Weaver plays Helms grade-school teacher who is having an affair with him, and the filmmakers chose to make her sweet. Obviously, Helms is clueless about everything around him. Instead of the salesmen and lovers he has poking fun at him, they try to help him out. It’s a lot like the guys in 40-Year-Old Virgin. They may be crude, but their heart is in the right place, and it helps us root for the situations that are taking place.

Helms character has to fly to this sales convention when the previous big-wig dies suddenly. He knows he’s in over his head, but tries to make the best of it. In an interview recently, Barbara Walters said his character reminded her of Jimmy Stewart. It reminded me of Tom Hanks in Big, mixed with Steve Carrell.

This movie had a few really big laughs. There’s a scene where the guys get drunk and hop into the pool that’s perhaps the funniest scene in a movie all year. There’s a party Helms goes to with a hooker he meets that’s a bit of fun. It was a nice touch hearing Golden Earring in the ratty truck on the way there, instead of something predictable like Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The characters are often inconsistent. Helms is baffled by why he needs to show airport security his liquids and take off his shoes. After all, he knows the guy working there. Yet in the airport, as in awe of everything as he is, it seems believable that a person could be this clueless. Once he gets to the hotel his character is no longer believable in the situations he seems to find himself. And, Helms' character is too much like his character from The Office.

The mismatched buddy-movie ends up working, because Reilly has enough redeeming qualities that we can see Whitlock reluctantly dealing with him.

The movie was produced by Alexander Payne, who gave us the wonderful Election, Sidewaysand About Schmidt. That’s a trifecta of great films, and this movie may be too raunchy for many fans of those movies.

I’m giving it a B-. Cedar Rapids is playing at AMC Fashion Valley 18, La Jolla Village Cinema and UltraStar Flower Hill 4 in Del Mar.

[Be warned: the trailer is funnier than the actual movie, but there are enough laughs to make this worth seeing.]