Monday, March 14, 2011

Cedar Rapids (Rhoades)

Visit “Cedar Rapids” For Some Great Chuckles
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I’ve been to Cedar Rapids. Have you? No, I thought not. Did you know it’s the second largest city in Iowa?
As it turns out, the filmmakers behind the new indie comedy titled “Cedar Rapids” haven’t been there either. You see, Iowa didn’t come through with the necessary tax credits, so they took their production to Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a stand-in. Good ol’ Michigan gave them a 42% tax rebate for filming there.

You see, making movies is mostly about money.

So is the insurance game, as Tim Lippe quickly discovers. He’s the naïve hero of “Cedar Rapids,” the story of a small-town insurance salesman from Wisconsin who gets to attend a regional sales conference in the “big city” that lends its name to the film.

“Cedar Rapids” is still putting smiles on faces at the Tropic Cinema this week.

Picked to represent his agency after its star salesman dies in an auto-erotica accident, Tim Lippe (as played by goofy Ed Helms) quickly discovers that he’s in over his head. Not only has he never flown on a plane, he’s a straight-laced guy who doesn’t drink, thinks hookers are sincere when they ask if he wants to party, and objects to being goosed by a playful female colleague. After all, he considers himself pre-engaged to an older woman (an aloof Sigourney Weaver) who used to be his teacher when he was twelve-years-old.
Tim’s nervousness is understandable. His boss (an overbearing Steven Root) expects him to win the Two Diamond Award for the company. And the president of the conference’s association (a stuffy Kurtwood Smith) disapproves of Tim’s behavior.

Our guy has fallen in with bad company. He’s rooming with – gasp! – an African-American person (Oreo-inspired Isiah Whitlock Jr.) whose greatest pleasure is watching HBO’s “The Wire” and with a dough-faced blowhard accused of poaching insurance clients (a manic John C. Reilly). Joining them in a series of wild adventures is that aforementioned female colleague (a perky Anne Heche) who might just turn Tim into a philanderer.

From a scavenger hunt to a talent contest to a one-on-one interview with the association’s president, Tim learns that he must “dance” to win the Two Diamond Award – putting his integrity on the line.
Is he willing to pay the price?

Ed Helms is convincing as the man who sees selling insurance as a noble profession. You’ll remember him from “The Hangover,” that boys-night-out comedy. Here, he has a night out, actually two of them. One with his female colleague who assures him what happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids. The other with a young hooker (likeable Alia Shawkat) who takes him to a wild and dangerous party.

Will he survive all this fun? Will we?

The movie promises to hold your attention (as well as offer chuckles) all way to the end. But stick around for the credits if you’d like an epilogue on what becomes of Tim and his new pals.

The funny script by Phil Johnston had languished for quite some time on the Blacklist, a tally of the best unproduced screenplays bouncing around Hollywood. Thanks, Michigan, for your tax credits that finally got “Cedar Rapids” made.
[from Solares Hill]

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