Cedar Rapids, Ed Helms' first effort after the success of The Hangover, is now available on DVD in what is advertized as a "The Super Awesome Edition." And while "Super Awesome" may be a bit of a stretch, "Awesome" doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility. If it didn't get the same kind of box office success as The Hangover, Cedar Rapids is certainly a pleasant enough comic romp with a stellar cast, and there are laughs aplenty for an hour and a half in front of the small screen.
Helms, in a part made for him, the kind that he could probably mail in with his eyes closed, plays Tim Lippe, a small town insurance agent who is delegated to attend a business convention in Cedar Rapids as a replacement for his agency's hot shot agent who has died under embarrassing circumstances. Lippe is a good natured innocent. He may be having an affair with an older woman played by Sigourney Weaver who it happens was his teacher when he was twelve, but he is truly in love. She, on the other hand, is only interested in playing around. In his naiveté, he is clueless and clueless defines his character throughout the film. He arrives at the motel in Cedar Rapids and runs into a prostitute (Alia Shawkat) who he takes for ordinary young girl. He doesn't drink; he carries his money in money belt under his clothes, and (to make sure his character is absolutely clear) he wears "tighty whities." Cedar Rapids may not be the den of inequity that Las Vegas is, but for the likes of Lippe it will do just fine.
In Cedar Rapids he is joined as roommates by Dean Ziegler a loud, hard drinking cynic played with panache by John C. Reilly and Ron Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) an upright gentleman and the first Afro-American Lippe has ever met. Anne Heche rounds out what seems to be the requisite quartet of characters in these kinds of films as a foxy married insurance agent out for some extra marital fun at the convention conveniently named Joan Ostrowski-Fox. Wilkes, if not the naïve innocent that Lippe is, is perhaps the one character in the film portrayed as an honorable person. Ziegler and Fox, while not exactly models of virtue, at least demonstrate that not all immoral behavior is equal. They may be engaged in sinful behavior, but they are good natured and true to their friends. This in contrast to characters like the president of the insurance association and the owner of Lippe's agency, played respectively by Kurtwood Smith and Stephen Root who are shown to be hypocritical babblers and dishonest to boot. Cedar Rapids paints a world in which a prostitute or an adulterous may well turn out to be more admirable as a human being than a pious pretender.