In this latest offering from the stable of man-child comedies Ed Helms portrays naïve insurance salesman Tim Lippe, a man who seems to have the mental ability of a 14 year old. Tim lives a comfortable life, his clients like him, he’s in a relationship with the girl of his dreams (his 7th grade teacher portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in a pointless cameo) and his boss is about to send him to the annual insurance convention up in Cedar Rapids. When Tim arrives in Cedar Rapids, he gets his small town mind blown by a world that is completely alien to him, a world of fun!
This film plays like a college movie, Helms is the insecure nerdy outsider who is adopted by the cool kids who shake up his life and make him learn a few things about himself. That plot is a classic that we all know and can relate to but it just seems a little awkward to have these characters portrayed by adults. When we first meet Tim Lippe, he’s almost portrayed to have mental problems, he doesn’t understand airport security and when a prostitute (the always lovely Alia Shawkat) propositions him he responds by offering her butterscotch candy. He seems to be a character inspired by Harry and Lloyd from Dumb & Dumber which is fine but it begs the questions as to why he is an insurance salesman and why the people in his life put up with him.
Miguel Arteta is a talented director being the man behind Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl but here he seems to not be able to tonally balance the film. The jokes are either very in your face (mainly thanks to John C. Reilly who appears to think he’s still in a Will Ferrell movie) or they are very subtle and very soon it starts to feel uncomfortable. The film is funny but these aren’t jokes that will stay with you long apart from the very wonderful and completely bizarre meta joke where Isiah Whitlock Jr. proclaims his love for the HBO programme The Wire, a show which features Whitlock Jr., this joke is the best part of the whole movie and if it doesn’t sound funny to you, you probably won’t enjoy the movie.
Cedar Rapids is not a great movie, it won’t be remembered years from now but it’s fine, there are a few laughs and it does the impossible by making insurance salesman look kind of cool. Sadly the film is quite aimless and seems to go nowhere and its morals are all over the place. The cast all do a fine job it’s a shame to say that most of the blame sits on Arteta who seems to have struggled to make any real sense of the script.
The extras are quite odd and seem to scrape the bottom of the barrel for laughs. The deleted scenes seem to add even more to the child like nature of Helms’ character, it seems that they tried to tone it down a bit more in the actual movie. Sadly the scenes offer very little humour-wise, the film would have felt the same with or without them. There is a strange extra called Mike O’Malley: Urban Clogger where we see Mike O’Malley (an actor who is barely in the film) learn to clog for a small scene in the movie, it’s completely pointless and it’s cheap attempts at humour are very poor. It does get credit however for being one of the most random extras I’ve ever seen on a disc. A fake commercial for Lippe’s insurance company is quite disturbing and hard to watch (mainly because the quality of the video is appalling though I believe that is for comedic effect). There is nothing here that really should be paid much attention, a poor selection.
Cedar Rapids is available on DVD & Blu Ray from 19/09/2011