February 19, 2011
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Since The Hangover exploded two years back, the three leads have all been popping up in other films. Some were really good (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) and others were not so great (The A-Team). Here, Ed Helms takes a leap into leading man territory with the indie Cedar Rapids. And, for all involved, he lands safely on the other side.
Helms is Tim Lippe, a very naive insurance salesman in Wisconsin who idolizes the star of his branch. When his idol dies, he must pick up the slack and travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a conference in hopes of maintaining the company’s award-winning status. There he meets a small group of veterans of the conference, friending them and learning all about the conference and his company and mentor.
Helms does a great straight man for all the shenanigans going on around him. With Anne Heche, John C. Reilly, and Stephen Root rounding out the cast, the film succeeds even when it looks like it should feel. It does so on the earnestness of Helms and the depth the script brings to these characters. This could have easily been a one-note comedy, but the jokes keep coming.
Despite the film not being filmed in Cedar Rapids due to the tax break in Iowa becoming a nightmare, the film still captures the look and feel of small town life and Iowa to the T. It may not be the actual city, but that’s not a total waste. The film is a fun and hilarious romp about conferences in the vein of fish-out-of-water stories. Definitely recommended for Iowans who enjoy some adult humor. 3.5 out of 5 stars.