I wasn't sure what to expect when I stepped into the theater to watch "Cedar Rapids." I had only seen a single trailer, and it was a really short one that highlighted John C. Reilly as some kind of goofball. Knowing that he was going to be in it was enough for me to be down.
Turns out "Cedar Rapids" is produced by Ed Helms, star of "The Office" and The Hangover." He also stars in his feature as the innocent - yet completely socially inept - Tim Lippe, an insurance sales agent from a sleepy town in Wisconsin. When the agency's MVP ("Reno 911" star Thomas Lennon) is suddenly found dead vis-a-vis David Carradine, Tim Lippe must step up and head to the fictional ASMI convention to win his agency another Two Diamond Award of Excellence.
With the barely-there support of his lover and former grade-school teacher, (played by the lovely Sigourney Weaver), Tim must put on his big-boy pants and head to Cedar Rapids for the convention. He befriends Joan (Anne Heche), Ronald (Isiah Witlock Jr.), and Dean a.k.a. 'Deansie' (John C. Reilly). Of course, Tim learns how to let loose and have a good time with his new pals.
This movie starts off as mildly entertaining, and as soon as John C. Reilly comes into the fold, the pace picks up and so does the humor. Ed Helms is pretty much the same guy in everything I've seen him in: the quirky, at-times-inappropriate, never-done-that-before type of guy. Tim Lippe is just another hologram of Stu Price and Andy Bernard. The awkwardness gets a little tedious, and so the movie has bits of vacuousness.
I was really surprised by Anne Heche's impressively funny performance. Her character, Joan , is very similar to Vera Farmiga's Alex in "Up in the Air." It's the whole "I'm-a-bored-wife-and-mom-please-show-me-a-good-time" ploy. Of course, for a sucker like Tim Lippe, Joan is intruiging and exciting, despite her forked tongue and loose lips (hehehe!). It always bothers me how these unfaithful women are the key to discovering the lighter side of life...but that's another post entirely.
The supporting cast helps to keep you interested: Kurtwood Smith (Red from "That 70's Show") as the president of the ASMI convention, Alia Shawkat (Maeby from "Arrested Development") as a down-to-party hooker, and Stephen Root ("Dodgeball" and "American Dad") as the crooked head of Tim's beloved agency.
This movie is about the lost innocence of the American business machine. Throw in a subplot about getting drunk with strangers and learning how to stand up for yourself, and you've got "Cedar Rapids." It reminded me of 2009's "Extract," which wouldn't have been such a decent movie without its hilarious supporting cast members (Kristen Wiig, David Koechner, T.J. Miller, etc.). Ed Helms couldn't have kept me interested for an hour and a half, and this movie definitely wouldn't have been worth watching if it wasn't for John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, and the remaining cast members. It was a pretty good time.