Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86% (Critics) / 60% (Audience)
Directed By: Miguel Arteta
Written By: Phil Johnston
Starring: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock, Anne Heche and Sigourney Weaver
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Synopsis: A sheltered insurance agent leaves his small town for the first time to go to an insurance convention in the “big city” of Cedar Rapids. While there he becomes fast friends with three convention veterans who loosen him up and show him that the world is bigger than his hometown and it is time for him to start living.
This movie is like character actor nirvana with so many of Hollywood’s most reliable character actors representing themselves gamely in parts both big and small. Ed Helms brings an understated, buttoned down, wide-eyed innocence to the lead role while downplaying his usual clueless nerdiness. John C. Reilly seems to be having the time of his life as the loudmouthed, brash veteran of the insurance convention game who takes Helms’ character under his wing in an effort to loosen him up. Isiah Whitlock (a personal favorite of mine for no other reason than his irrepressible turn as State Senator Clay Davis on THE WIRE) is the picture of restraint as the flip side of Reilly’s character. And Anne Heche is positively delightful in her role as the married but bawdy object of Helms’ affections at the insurance convention.
The writing and direction are also major positives in CEDAR RAPIDS. Phil Johnston’s script is both warm and funny while Miguel Arteta shoots things in a very subtle way that really works for this film.
I could have stood for a bit more fleshing out of the relationships between the Ed Helms character and the Sigourney Weaver character. And at 87 minutes it seemed a bit shorter than it needed to be.
Needed more Stephen Root.
Final Verdict: CEDAR RAPIDS is like a film about the people in the background of a major Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts and for my money I will take a million films like this over some splashy move full of big names. Great performances and understated comedy made for a really cool movie. B