Cedar Rapids Review
by Bret Dorman
Where I come from (Rochester, NY) there’s basically two kinds of movies. Hollywood Movies and Indie Films. People who like Hollywood Movies are simple folk looking for escape and predictability, as well as gorgeous looking people. People who like Indie Films are pretentious pessimists who hate happy endings and gorgeous looking people.
It’s easy to simplify something down and take a jab at it. The trick is, you have to have your heart in the right place. Luckily, Cedar Rapids may be full of ‘easy laughs’, but its heart seems to be in the right place.
The Story: Tim Lippe is just an average insurance loving salesman. But when he is thrown into the dark, yet comedic world of an Annual Insurance Convention to win some award, he may be in over his head! Oh no! Also, John C. Reilly gets really drunk and says silly things.
So let’s run a test to see what kind of movie Cedar Rapids is. We’ll start with Indie Film…
In order to be an Indie the movie has to have a quirky set of characters. Check. A bunch of B and C list celebs? Check. The actor who plays the main character is usually ‘better suited’ as a supporting character? Check. No explosions. Check. A sense of humor that could be described as ‘witty’? Half-Check.
Hmmm. Not bad. But let’s run the test against Hollywood’s formula just to be sure. The first 15-20 minutes lays out everything you’ll really need to know, including essential call backs, twists and turns, and the ending. Check. Goodguys become badguys and badguys become goodguys. Check. A concluding speech that wraps up what the main character learned? Check. A sense of humor that could be described as ‘childish’? Half-Check.
Oh crap! Seems Cedar Rapids passes both tests. So what does that mean? It means the movie strives pretty hard to be quirky funny and yet falls into all the traps that make Hollywood movies kind of… well, boring.
Ed Helms plays a good loser straight man who takes the whole ‘Insurance thing’ way too seriously. Not to an obnoxious degree, but definitely a caricature of people who take boring stuff really seriously. I’d say everyone does their part in this movie. They all hold their own and no one is out to steal the show. Everyone plays their characters to the purpose they are supposed to be played.
The only person I have a problem with is John C. Reilly. Now, don’t get me wrong. He is great. And in this movie, of the four main sales persons, he is definitely ‘The Kramer’ of the group. But I’m not talking about Reilly’s performance in Rapids that I’m a little peeved at, I’m talking about the fact the Reilly has (and shown before) so much more potential, but seems to be content doing silly for the sake of silly roles. I’d just like to see him do some other stuff every once in a while. (Of course I never want to see him give up his ‘Dr. Steve Brule’ character. Ever.)
I understand how this looked good on paper. An off beat comedy about ‘Insurance Companies’ and using cliches to take the mundane and make it funny or dramatic. But its just a neat idea. The cast can only do so much with what they are given. and they aren’t really given a whole lot.
The biggest laughs from this movie come in the form of naughty swear words. But ever since 40 Year Old Virgin became a hit by ‘offending’ people by taking two swear words and combining them (or combining any stupid silly word with a swear word) it’s not enough to try to get laughs by just saying silly things over and over.
The characters in this movie aren’t realistic, but they have more depth than your average one dimensional character because they are more specific in their daily lives. so the depth they have isn’t really emotional, just superficial. The comedy comes mostly in premises and the occasional one liner, but not really through the characters themselves.
In Conclusion: While nothing in this movie makes it stand out from anything else, at least its relatively light hearted (even when trying to be darker). The characters who populate Cedar Rapids may not be funny, but they can be fun to watch.
Final Grade: C+