One of the more fun aspects of missing something during the Sundance Film Festival is catching a film when it finally hits theaters. While obviously not everything gets snatched up for a theatrical release, Fox Searchlight sure has a way of picking some great ones. With five films picked up at this year’s festival, here is the first for the year and the third (after Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl) to receive distribution for director Miguel Arteta. And who knew insurance could be so much fun as Cedar Rapids wholeheartedly proves.
Arteta is definitely making a name for himself in the big world of comedy. Whether it’s his already mentioned theatrical releases (also including his criminally underseen Youth in Revolt) or on TV (Six Feet Under, The Office), he’s slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with. The same thing could be said for John C. Reilly who’s really found a niche for bringing his degenerates with a heart of gold and shoving them in your face until you’re ready to cry from laughing so hard. Thanks also goes out to first time scribe Phil Johnston for bringing everyone one of the best black comedy scripts in years.
Tim Lippe (Helms) works hard and truthfully for Brown Star Insurance in Brown Valley, Wisconsin. He lives a simple life where he thinks he’s in love because he’s “making love” (as he continually calls it when he’s not telling her “I’ll dream of you in my heart”) to his former junior high teacher, Mrs. Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver)… err, Macy and gives her a pre-engagement ring much to her chagrin. After his co-worker Peter (Thomas Lennon) asphyxiates himself and people start talking about him being some kind of deviant, their boss Bill Krogstad (Stephen Root) decides to send Tim to Cedar Rapids for the annual insurance convention seeking out the coveted Two Diamond Award which Peter has won two years running.
Having never been outside of Brown Valley before, he checks his small town worldview of naïveté in his bag (he’s literally terrified of credit card imprints used for room incidentals and boasts a fanny pack hiding his insured traveler’s checks) where he meets his first African-American, Ronald “Ronimal” Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who uses way too many acronyms and the one man he was sworn by Krogstad to avoid, Dean “Deansie” Ziegler (Reilly). Along the way he also finds his way through Bree (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) playing a drug swindling prostitute loitering around the hotel and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) who just might be the key to opening up little Lippe’s eyes to the big bad world that lies outside his comfort zone.
Here’s hoping that for every awful movie to come about from the Hollywood Blacklist (Cop Out) comes a movie like Cedar Rapids. With spitfire hilariously quotable dialogue to sure-handed comedic direction and a cast that knows how to take their characters to the next level while staying believable (even if Reilly seems to be warming up for Step Brothers 2), it’ll be hard to find another comedy anytime soon that keeps the laughs coming from beginning to end. And at a scant 86 minutes, you couldn’t ask for a more wham bam thank you ma’am good time.
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