Who's In It: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Stephen Root, Alia Shawkat, Sigourney Weaver
The Basics: Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a nice guy. We get reminded of this every 24 seconds. He doesn't swear, he doesn't drink, he doesn't fool around, and he loves to sell insurance. When his boss Bill (Stephen Root) is unavailable to attend an insurance convention in Schenectady--just kidding, Cedar Rapids--Tim has to take the bull by the horns and bring home the big Double Diamond award to prove how dedicated he is. What he runs into is a bunch of freewheeling, quirky folks who teach him that sometimes being the overachiever isn't all it's cracked up to be.
What's The Deal: In the hands of a less talented director and cast, this movie wouldn't have been anything interesting. As it is, everyone is charming and they do charming things. If you want a movie that isn't too offensive, too edgy, too sad, or too funny, this is your flick. It's not even too long at 87 minutes! You could take anyone to this movie and everyone will leave feeling like they just had a properly-sized snack of delicious popcorn when they really wanted a juicy burger. It's responsible and you don't regret it, but it doesn't go down in history either.
We Are Family: The supporting cast is really strong in this film propping up Helms, whose character doesn't fully hit the bullseye for me. He seems SO straitlaced that it's like he's competing with Rainman over who gets to be Ultimate Eagle Scout. I would have appreciated some subtlety, but in the end, it's easy to forgive. John C. Reilly manages to make Deansie, in all his "tears of a clown" madness, be likable even when you see him after hours bellowing in a courtyard pool with a garbage can on his head. He has just the right amount of sadness around the edges to make you want to hug him. Anne Heche is great as the hottest girl at the insurance convention with lots of secrets in her pantsuit. Isiah Whitlock Jr's performance runs parallel to Ed Helms as far as Rainman is concerned, but he is awkward, adorable, hilarious and relatable. Alia Shawkat, sporting a dye job that made me long for the days of "Arrested Development," plays a prostitute involved in one of the films' most memorable parts, which brings me to…
I Love Watching Insurance Agents Do Drugs: This is the part of the film that is most reminiscent of how dark Miguel Arteta can be. Cedar Rapids lacks the constantly-uncomfortable vibe of Chuck & Buck or The Good Girl, but it does get a little down and dirty. At this convention, insurance agents are breaking all the rules with bribes, adultery, copious amounts of alcohol, and at one point, parties in crack dens. I really adore the idea of these nice folks behind a desk discussing hail damage and then going out and hitting the pipe. Helms pulls this part of the film off really well, and he is in great company with Shawkat. It gets fun, but not over the top--perfectly in step with the rest of the film.