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IN SHORT: an OK dateflick. [Rated R. 87 minutes]
America is a country large and wide and it shouldn't be too hard to imagine a resident who has been born and raised in a small town, never ever seeing a big city in 34 years on the planet . . .
Of course, Cranky has been city bound for decades so building sympathy for a guy so sheltered (sic) is a wee bit of a task. Actor Ed Helms, in the title role of Tim Lippe manages it with aplomb and, frankly, watching his wide-eyed optimist deal with all sorts of adult (meaning sex and drugs and everything else short of rock and roll) situations is kinda fun.
Cedar Rapids is really not all that different from the old country cousin/city cousin fable, except that in this case the setting is a convention of Insurance salesmen and women, and the group to which all the conventioneers belong is one which maintains that good Christian values can be applied to insurance industry practices. Of course, it's the annual convention. No one you'll meet across the course of this film is interested in anything other than blowing off steam from their normal, all-values lives.
When we first meet Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), life-long resident of Brown Valley, Wisconsin, he is in bed with his lover Macy (Sigourney Weaver), a woman once the 7th grade school teacher he fantasized about. Tim reads much more into the situation than teach does, but that isn't important until much later. When the senior insurance salesman at his company is found dead -- we're not going to explain autoasphyxiation -- Tim is sent to his first convention in the big city Cedar Rapids (Iowa) and his sole goal, according to his boss (Stephen Root), is to bring home a 2-Diamond Award, signifying that his branch is the best of the best. It's won said award three years running and number four would be a record. He is warned, though, to stay far away from another salesman - Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), who has a reputation for poaching clients.
Well, you know where that is going to go, right? Once in Cedar Rapids, Tim meets his assigned roommate, Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr) who seems uptight for, as you may surmise, a different reason. And because the hotel was overbooked, guess who is sleeping on the couch? Yep, "Deanzie" Ziegler.
Needless to say, Tim learns about convention partying and all sorts of other things in his weekend with Deanzie. Rounding out the squad is Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), a married agent who upsets Tim's world in ways she never expected who, with Deanzie, helps build a human protective wall around Tim. It doesn't keep him from going to a party with the local streetwalker Bree (Alia Shawkat) or learning how his company really earned its 2 Diamond awards. When the Insurance bigwig (Kurtwood Smith) catches Tim and "Fox" and Deanzie in a compromising situation -- our lips are sealed -- Tim learns the real meaning of life and the 2 Diamond Award and everything else concerning love and sex.
And that's all stuff you're going to have to find out for yourself.
The language is thick. There is nudity and drug stuff so, if it isn't clear by now, no kiddies at this one, parental units. Let 'em sneak in like you (we) all did. Every generation has its own Animal House. Cedar Rapids doesn't try to be that kind of movie. It's world is one of limits being broken, lines being crossed and taboos falling right and left. When all is said and done, Tim still manages to do the right thing, when it really counts. Again, that is all on Ed Helms' shoulders and he carries the film.
Cedar Rapids wowed the crowds at Sundance, which doesn't do a lot for us since the Sundance Festival is real heavy on handing out its version of "attaboy" awards to films that won't have any interest for the general public. Cedar Rapids isn't a roll in the eyes comedy. It is a very watchable film with enough comedy and dramatic situations to keep your interest.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Cedar Rapids, he would have paid . . .
If you can find a good sized crowd to watch it with, you'll have a better time. Laughter is contagious, you know.
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