Cedar Rapids

5 Apr

Title: Cedar Rapids
Year:
2011
Director:
Miguel Arteta
Writer: Phil Johnston
Starring:
Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Sigourney Weaver, Alia Shawkat, Kurtwood Smith, Stephen Root, Mike O’Malley
MPAA Rating:
R, crude and sexual content, language and drug use
Runtime:
87 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.2
Rotten Tomatoes:
84%

I’m a big big fan of Miguel Arteta, the first three films he did, released respectively in 1997, 2000 and 2002 were Star Maps, Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl, and they were all unequivocably amazing, the last one especially I have a thing for, a truly fantastic film that boasts probably the best performance Jennifer Aniston has given to this date. Then Mr. Arteta had a filmmaking silence of eight years, returning only last year with Youth in Revolt, a Michael Cera film I gave an A- to and that proved the man hadn’t lost his touch. Thankfully, he’s not making us wait another eight years for his next effort, as Cedar Rapids has come only a year after his last one, and the quick waiting time isn’t affecting his results. This one’s another winner.

The reason why Cedar Rapids is so damn good is because of the script it has, written by Phil Johnston who made his feature-film writing debut with this one. The writing on display in this film is truly superb, I mean, it’s still very much so an R-rated comedy, but it has this warmth to it that’s really a fantastic complement to it, a very smart script full of brilliant pieces that will let the performers deliver by the heaps. You look at some of the best recent R-rated comedies, whether it’s The Hangover or Get Him to the Greek or Pineapple Express, few hard-rated comedies are this sweet, and few occur with such ordinary characters and feelings and events. This is the most human R-rated laughfest to come out in a while.

And the fact that it pulled such sweetness and humanity comes through so effortlessly is not only due to the terrific screenplay by Mr. Johnston, but also to the remarkable cast this one had lined up. At the head of it all is Ed Helms, who viewers of his work in The Office already know can be truly great at portraying sweetness behind comedic situations, you just have to watch his interactions with Erin to get proof of that. Mr. Helms is truly great here, and I think one of the better things to come out of the huge success that was The Hangover is the fact that we now get to watch more of him in leading roles in films.

And the rest of the cast is rounded up by names we all know and love. John C. Reilly is here, and he’s obviously another guy who can do both outright comedic roles, like he’s done in Step Brothers, and also rock it doing some dramas, like we’ve seen in Magnolia or Chicago, the latter of which got him an Oscar nomination, and he also is a master at balancing the both of them in a single film too, like we got the chance to see just last year in the terrific Cyrus. There’s also Anne Heche here, who I love, as well Sigourney Weaver and The Wire‘s Isiah Whitlock Jr. and, most importantly, the incredibly awesome Alia Shawkat, who I’m a huge fan of and I get all excited when I see her pop into anything.

You have to hand it down to everyone involved here really, I mean, that a movie can be so hilarious while still being incredibly heartfelt is a rare feat that really serves to indicate when you’re witnessing something that has quite a bit of greatness embedded into it. That starts with the fantastic script, then goes to the director, Mr. Arteta, who’s smart enough to know that the best comedy comes from within his characters, and then it’s all down to his cast to deliver. And boy do they do just that.

The movie is kind of about a journey of self-discovery. We have Mr. Helms’ character, an insurance salesman from a small town in Wisconsin who’s sent out of the blue to a conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This to him is hitting the big times, finally getting to see the world. Any world that’s not related to his confined existence in his small town, where the only father figure he knew was his boss, and the maternal love provided by his seventh-grade teacher, played every so awesomely by Ms. Weaver.

The story of Tim Lippe is terrific, this is the sort of person who really does exist, who knows nothing more than his little world and who’s naïvety is incredibly endearing. Yes, the fact that he’s so unaware about the going-ons of it all makes for some incredibly funny situations, but this is a film that’s good enough that it lets those situations speak for themselves, not pushing them down our throats, but just letting them be, and allowing the funniness to come out naturally by taking Tim’s viewpoint seriously enough.

And so we see Tim taking on the world of hotels with pools and fully loaded bars. And he does so with the help of two veteran convention-goers, one of them is his suitemate, Ronald, the character played by Mr. Whitlock Jr., and the other one’s Dean, played pitch-perfectly by John C. Reilly who really makes every character he plays his own.They help introduce Tim to the world of conventions, and the drinking and the flirting that goes on in them. And he also finds his first experience with love there, as Ms. Heche’s character, Joan, gets into the picture.

And it’s really awesome to watch it all play out, to watch a director that knew how to handle this material perfectly, making it a rather short but meaningful film, giving his characters room to play and paying as much attention to the huge raunchy laughs as he did to the warm-hearted stuff that’s in here. This is a low-key film, that has a lead character that’s pretty ordinary, but that has in Ed Helms the perfect actor play him, and with him Cedar Rapids soars to great heights, and keeps Mr. Arteta’s flawless streak well alive.

Grade: A-

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