Ed Helms is an odd fellow. Even when he's playing the straight man, he occasionally rises over the top, but not so much that he's unbelievable. You just believe that he's that kind of person - a goofy, high strung, and ultimately lovable buffoon. While he's had plenty of time in the spotlight with the popularity of the television show The Office and the comedy The Hangover and it's current sequel, Cedar Rapids marks his debut as leading man and he knocks it out the park the Ed Helms way - goofy, high strung, and lovable.
In Cedar Rapids, Helms plays Tim Lippe, an insurance salesman. While he may be good at selling insurance, he's a bit naive when it comes to everyday life. And, call me a pessimist (or a downer, if you must), but he's a bit too chipper, too optimistic, and that's very a side effect of his naivety. When the best salesman at his branch dies, Tim is forced to take his place at a regional conference. It's here that he's really put to the test, not so much as a salesman but as a person. And along the way, he meets a whole cast of crazy colleagues.
What really makes Cedar Rapids shine is its surprisingly deep characters. At first glance, it seems that Tim is going to be the one that really gets fleshed out. And that's fine. This movie is about Tim, after all. Plenty of movies have great background characters that we only get to know on a surface level. But in Cedar Rapids, Anne Heche's Joan, Isiah Whitlock Jr.'s Ronald, and John C. Reilly's Ziegler all get their time in the spotlight. Joan, which a bit of a sexual deviant, honestly cares for Tim. We don't know if she cares about every insurance salesman she takes to bed, but Tim has a place in her heart. Ronald Wilkes, well he's just a good guy. He's a bit boring, but not as a character, just as a person. He likes antiquing, as well as the HBO show The Wire. Funnily enough, Whitlock Jr. plays a crucial part in the HBO show. Even funnier, The Wire references were written in before he was cast.
And then there's Dean Ziegler, who turns out to be one the most strangely likable characters. He's loud, obnoxious, and can be an ass at times, especially when he's liquored up, but at heart he's a big softy. By the end of the film, he's hard not to love.
Cedar Rapids isn't the best comedy, but it offers some genuine laughs coming from characters that you actually care about. And more importantly, it has a lot of heart, which really comes through as you're watching it. This is the kind of film you watch if you're looking to make a few interesting friends.
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