I still find it hard to not picture Ed Helms with the missing tooth as was so prominently featured in the first HANGOVER. I do find Helms funny to some extent, but mostly in small doses and I still have yet to enjoy any of his characters as much as I like Stu from THE HANGOVER and its sequel. CEDAR RAPIDS has a lot of very successful comedic personalities and comical characters, but as a whole I feel like the film struggles at maintaining a consistently funny pace.
Tim Lippy (Ed Helms) is an extremely friendly insurance agent with extremely naïve views on the world and life in general. After the unexpected and bizarre death of the top agent/coworker, Tim is tasked with traveling to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to bring home his firm’s fourth Two Diamond Award. Upon arrival Tim is exposed to a trio of fellow insurance agents that help/nudge Tim into expanding his horizons and helping him look outside the box a little.
On some level I think I tried to avoid watching CEDAR RAPIDS in fear that I would judge it unfairly if it leaned heavily on painting the Midwest in the typical backwoods stereotype. Being that I grew up in Iowa and reside in the Midwest, the misconception about people from Iowa being rednecks or just severely out of touch with the rest of the world, is somewhat offensive. I do not harbor a bruised ego for the stereotype since every section of the U.S. wears a preconception of their citizens to some extent. To my surprise I found little to be offended or upset about while watching CEDAR RAPIDS except that I just didn’t think it was as charming or funny as it wanted to be.
I do like Ed Helms, but his character here feels like a small mixture of his character from THE HANGOVER and from the TV show The Office. Helms plays a somewhat sheltered Christian in a casual sexual relationship, but doesn’t get the mechanics of a friends with benefits scenario. He also gets frightened when an African-American man is in his hotel room, gets skittish around alcohol and overreacts in an annoying way at some point later on in the film. All of these are there for comedic reasons and to build his character, but I didn’t find any of it all that funny, in fact a little annoying. John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr. all redeem the film for me- Reilly is hilarious, Heche is cute and charming and Whitlock’s personality I found to be pretty endearing and funny.
I found it hard to digest any of the humor from Helms being a prude and coming off holier than thou toward everyone. It was only when he started letting loose drinking and later on stepping up the game I actually started getting some laughs from Helms’ character. Stephen Root has a small part and I always enjoy him, especially when he has some rage issues. Also, for a film that has a pretty trimmed down runtime (clocks in under an hour and a half) the movie just feels long- I attribute this to more than half of the film not being much fun and a lot of jokes/characters falling flat.
CEDAR RAPIDS has a handful of fun and charming characters as well as a smaller handful of decent laughs, but failed to win me over with its main character. If it wasn’t for John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr. I would not be able to recommend this film confidently to anyone. CEDAR RAPIDS does have that indie comedy feel that drew me to it initially, but it just doesn’t sustain the no holds barred indie movie personality that I wanted. I know this movie has an audience as well as fans that will eat every second of this up- I just don’t belong to that specific audience.