¨There`s a separation between religion and insurance. It`s in the constitution.¨
Who would`ve ever thought that a comedy could be made about a bunch of insurance people gathered at a Convention in a small city named Cedar Rapids? Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt and The Good Girl) certainly did, and he did a great job with directing this film putting the emphasis on the characters and not so much on the story. It`s a character driven comedy and the cast was really perfect for this sort of comedy; even the small city, Cedar Rapids, becomes an important character in the movie. Phil Johnston should also receive plenty of credit for writing an interesting and original script. He was able to create good characters and they are developed really well in the short 90 minutes the movie lasts. Cedar Rapids is an unconventional comedy, but it works nonetheless; there are very funny moments and great performances from Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. They all worked really well together and were able to deliver a very funny comedy which sort of mixes the buddy comedy with road trip with the classic fish out of the water scenario. Cedar Rapids is a very interesting and modest small film, just like the small city in Iowa is. It`s not a perfect comedy, but Cedar Rapids is much better than most comedies that I`ve seen recently, and it stands out from the rest.
The main character of the film is Tim Lippie (Ed Helms) who has dedicated his whole life to the insurance company he works for. He`s lived his entire existence in Brown Valley, Wisconsin and has a relationship with his seventh grade teacher, Macy Vanderhai (Sigourney Weaver), with whom he is ¨pre-engaged.¨ He believes to be living a good life, but things turn around for him when the star insurance man of Brown Valley passes away after a freak ¨accident.¨ Lippie`s boss, Bill (Stephen Root), asks him to replace his former co-worker and travel to the insurance convention in Cedar Rapids to represent the company and try to win the Two-Diamond Award for Excellence for the third year in a row. It is the first time in his life that Lippie is going to travel on a plane and stay in a hotel, so things are very new for him. He will soon realize that not everything is as it seemed, and that life can get pretty wild in Cedar Rapids. Lippie has to share his hotel room with two other insurance men who have already been to dozens of these conventions: Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly). Ronald is a nice African American who makes Lippie feel at home. Dean is also a great guy, but he is very outspoken and behaves unethically at times. Lippie is shocked at first by his behavior and attitude, and tries to stay away from him because his sole mission is to win the award and impress the judge, Orin (Kurtwood Smith), who is a firm preacher of ethics. Lippie also befriends a female colleague named Joan (Anne Heche) with whom he gets romantically involved. Lippie`s life will change in Cedar Rapids, and he`s going to have the experience of his life.
The film works really well because of a couple of factors: First of all Ed Helms did a terrific job with his character and he proved that he can be a lead man in a comedy. His performance was truly hysterical as he played the typical naïve and innocent sort of guy, and it balanced out really well with John C. Reilly`s outspoken and know it all character. The chemistry between both actors was excellent, and Reilly played his role to perfection because he wasn’t the typical loud character; he had much more heart and was carrying at times. Anne Heche also delivered her role really well, but the funniest character in the film for me was Isiah Whitlock who really delivered the greatest laughs with his dry humor and The Wire personating. The scene where the guys interrupt a party in order to rescue Lippie is probably one of the best ones of the movie. The success of the film really relied on the performance of these actors, because Cedar Rapids was a character driven film. The characters were believable and true, and not simply characterizations and stereotypes; they had a lot of depth. I`ve got to give the credit to Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Isiah Whitlock who all played a big part in making this as funny as it was. This is not your typical comedy, but I still recommend it.