Thursday, February 17, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Cedar Rapids

Guest blogger Liz Parker is back from an advance screening of "Cedar Rapids".  This movie looks - well - strange. Is it strange brilliant or strange bad?  Let's read what Liz thinks...

I was able to see "Cedar Rapids" at its Sundance USA premiere at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on January 28. From its trailer, it looked like it would be reminiscent of "The Hangover," which also starred Ed Helms, but I was worried that it may have put all its funny moments in the trailer, like some comedies are apt to do. Luckily, I was proved completely wrong, and the movie ended up being hilarious. Director Miguel Arteta was at the theater as well, and he did a Q&A session after the film, as well as a "Meet the Press" type session that I was also able to attend.

In "Cedar Rapids," Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, TV's "The Office") works for a small insurance agency in a town in Wisconsin. When his coworker suddenly dies, he has the chance to go to the big insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his goal is to win the prestigious "Two Diamonds Award" that his coworker had won for the agency four years running. He has a list of "good people" to associate with, including his roommate, Ronald (Isaih Whitlock Jr., TV's "Rubicon"), and a list of people to stay away from - well, a list with one name on it, anyway, that of the bawdy Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly, "Terri"). While at the conference, he also meets Joan (Anne Heche, TV's "Hung"), and Tim and his new friends end up having more shenanigans go down than he was probably ever expecting to happen in Cedar Rapids.

The movie was bizarre and hilarious - it reminded me of a mix of "The Hangover" and "The Forty Year Old Virgin." The other A-lister in the movie, Sigourney Weaver ("You Again"), was not in the film as much as I thought she'd be (she played Tim's girlfriend, who is a significant 20+ years older than him and was his teacher when he was 12 years old), but the other three A-listers (O'Reilly, Helms, and Whitlock) were featured prominently. Heche does a great job as well, as a married woman with two children, who insists that "what happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids" and that this was her vacation of sorts from "real life." John C. Reilly absolutely steals the show, and he is the funniest I have ever seen him here. The director, Miguel Arteta, said that Reilly likes to improvise a lot, so perhaps this contributed to the movie's hilarity; speaking of which, definitely stay while the credits roll after this movie, because there are two or three more scenes in which he delivers again and again. Ed Helms was good in his role, especially at playing the naive Tim, but it is Reilly, in my opinion, that plays the funniest character.

Yes, see this movie. If I can see it again before it comes out, I probably will. The audience was laughing hysterically throughout most of the movie, and it would be interesting to see if it is received as well by a Detroit-area audience (rather than Ann Arbor-area). Whenever I thought the movie couldn't get any weirder or crazier, it outdid itself again and again, and it is this craziness that had the audience in stitches throughout the entire film.

"Cedar Rapids" will have a limited release on February 11, and will be released in the Detroit area on February 18.

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Liz Parker is a 2009 graduate of the University of Michigan. She currently works as an Assistant Medical Editor for a pathology website. Visit her at her movie blog Yes/No Films
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