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Blu-ray Review: Cedar Rapids

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Cedar Rapids, directed by Miguel Arteta, stars Ed Helms, of The Office, as a good natured and extremely naïve insurance agent named Tim Lippe. Lippe has been tasked with attending his very first ASMI convention as a replacement for Brown Star Insurance Agency’s top agent who has died under very embarrassing circumstances. Not only does Lippe have to attend this convention, but he has to wow the bigwigs in order to save his and all his co-workers jobs. Lippe has never ventured outside his small town in Wisconsin, and a trip to Cedar Rapids is almost beyond belief for him.

Though Lippe is excited about his trip he is overwhelmed at the thought of leaving his former middle school teacher turned adult lover Macy (Sigourney Weaver), and of being responsible for saving his agency’s good name. Lippe is a case of arrested development. He has not thought of life beyond what he has created for himself, and he greets every new experience with a childlike wonderment. Essentially Cedar Rapids is a fish out of water story. Though an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids may sound mundane, Lippe is unprepared for the booze and women that accompany the affair.

Helms is great as the naïve Lippe who must come out of his shell in order to succeed during his few days outside his comfort zone. He plays the everyman character. Even though his innocence is extreme it is easy to relate to his feelings of not belonging and being in over his head, but wanting to fit in nonetheless. Lippe finds himself rooming with a couple of insurance pros, Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who have very different takes on the industry and life in general. Ziegler is brash and vulgar while Wilkes is proper and professional.

For the most part Cedar Rapids is a very funny movie with Lippe trying to survive the schenanigans of his roommates, advances from a road weary female agent (Anne Heche), and run-ins with the head of the association (Kurtwood Smith). The cast is excellent. Everyone is very believable as insurance salesmen who are attending a convention that is  the most important thing in their careers, but ultimately is pretty meaningless -and they all know it. The best parts of the movie are the dialogue and the interactions of all the characters.

The weakest part of the movie is the last act, where things go a little too far in the antics. I was a little disappointed a movie as clever as Cedar Rapids used some fairly conventional plot twists to resolve its storyline. Lippe’s relationship with a hooker (Alia Shawkat) who hangs around the hotel, waiting for lonely businessmen, is ultimately a red herring that adds nothing to the story. Still the movie is very funny, and it is great to see Ed Helms in a leading role where he can showcase his comedic abilities.

The 1080p AVC-encoded image looks great on Blu-ray. The whole film has very warm look with clothing and landscapes having a well worn look. Cedar Rapids is not about flashiness; it’s exactly the opposite and that is reflected in the look of the movie. The detail is very sharp and the clarity is excellent. Everything has a very natural look to it. The sound is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The movie is dialogue heavy, so there is not a lot going on the surrounding speakers. Everything sounds good with the voices being clear and easy to understand. The rear speakers provide the ambient sound for the most part.

There are quite a few special features included on the Blu-ray, most of them being the standard fare of deleted scenes, outtakes, and making of featurettes. There are also a couple of unconventional and amusing featurettes about one actor learning to “clog dance” for a scene and the shooting of the lesbian wedding dance party scene. The BD-Live exclusive feature is “Ed Helm’s Mad Chopper Skills” in which Ed Helms flies his remote control helicopter around between takes. The gag reel is one of the more funny ones I have seen, with the actor’s improvising some of the lines and having it be different each time.


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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.