Monday, September 5, 2011

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Overall Score: 6.50/10

It seems as of late that adult oriented comedy has taken on a handful of base characteristics that need be repeated in as many forms as one can possibly derive. The first being a brief time window in which to operate. This can be anywhere from one night to a couple of days. The second, a collection of people who seemingly get along though are constantly at odds with one another due to a few eccentricities. Then, upon those two you pile, interweave, or just dive right into a solid collection of drunken stupor and sexual awkwardness (or indulgence) as you can. Cedar Rapids doesn't deviate much from this formula. But what it does do is take that formula - which is all too often annexed by the 'Dude' persona - and written over some of its more gross out elements and morphed it into an appreciable comedy about the social awakening of a repressed man.

Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is not exactly your run of the mill Hollywood star material. He's a mild manner, shy man in a sexual relationship with his once teacher (Sigourney Weaver), who has never left town, and his room would remind anyone of their own at age six. Yet, when his long time idol and fellow employ, Roger (Thomas Lennon) dies of auto-erotic asphyxiation - a fact Tim refuses to believe given Roger's family man mentality - Tim is called up by his boss (Stephen Root) to attend their yearly conference at Cedar Rapids. One hitch though, Tim must follow in Roger's footsteps and win the Two Diamond award or else he'll lose his job. Toss in chance encounters with the conference 'bad-boy' Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), the seductive party girl Joan Fox (Anne Heche), and the dignified Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Tim is in for a weekend he'll not soon forget.

For me, Cedar Rapids is a film of highs and lows. While I appreciate the underlying jabs at company conferences and the dry, satirical nature of it, I often find myself twiddling my thumbs and wondering if the film was aware of what it wanted to accomplish. The scenes of drinking and John C. Reilly yelling random things of mild amusement are all well and good, but they don't do much for the film. Sure, they setup Tim for what will inevitably be his trek towards the 'dark side' of social entertainment, but it's just not an avenue by which I find much laughter.

In fact my favorite scenes of the film are the ones where Tim and his fellow cohorts are just interacting, helping each other out, or performing random tasks to gain various rewards at the conference. With their inner child on full display, they really bring out a great sentiment of adoration and pure joy. It's not bogged down by trying to turn awkward into hilarity. It's just plain fun, and you can feel it when you watch the characters and in turn it injects that emotional feeling of fun into you. A feeling that one can carry along with them throughout the film and keep them smiling. That's where Cedar Rapids is its strongest, and that's where I wish it spent its entire runtime.

Then again, more Isiah Whitlock Jr would also have been appreciate. The guy is just awesome. Every scene he was in this film I just wanted him to keep talking. Anne Heche is nice, and I would love to see her get more work, but her character's been done, and better (paging Vera Farmiga please report to isle Univarn). John C. Reilly is always a joy, but it felt like just another string in his ever continuing trek to be more Will Ferrell than Will Ferrell. Which leaves us with good ol' Ed Helms. Sure, I like him on one level just because we share a last name and I feel some kindred in that (though as far as I am aware there's no relation). Still, I think he's got a great screen presence and displays that he's quite capable of carrying a film on his own right.

So while I won't join the adoring mass whom have interlocked hands and marched out to champion this film, I will say there's plenty to love and respect here, depending on your particular comedy preference. It never goes so low as to dwell in the land of raunchy comedy, nor does it rise so hire as to be full on satire. It exists in the middle, and to the middle it shall stay. Enjoyable, and pleasant, it won't put you on the floor with laughter, but it'll keep a smile ready and waiting for you to take away as the credits roll.

Film Credits:
Directed By: Miguel Arteta
Written By: Phil Johnston

2 better thoughts:

Duke said...

That's why I liked the film so much ... rarely can a movie make you smile and just make you feel good, like "Cedar Rapids" did.

Helms can carry a film well, like you said - Heche is solid as always.

Glad to see a review my man. I think someone listened to Castor and myself.

Have a nice Labor day.

Dan O. said...

Good to see this getting the love it deserves. I had no expectations for this small-in-scope, unassuming comedy, and that made the experience all the better for me. Really funny and touching movie about Tim growing up (something that seems to be a major theme in a lot of popular comedies today) and shedding his worldly naivete along the way. Good Review!

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