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.
The plot which centers on Lippe’s need to win the prestigious two diamonds award for his agency is less important than the set pieces he and the rest of the crew run through as he learns what the world is really like. There is a trip to a raunchy meth party where Rob Corddry shows up as a tattooed thug and Lippe gets his first taste of drugs. There is a bit of clothed and unclothed dipping in the motel pool. There is an assortment of convention activities: breakfasts, talent shows, scavenger hunts. There is, of course, a scene with Helms interrupted on the commode complete with appropriate aromatic references. All of these give Helms the opportunity to trot out his cute duck out of water persona, a persona he plays with masterful strokes, while the others wink and nod at his innocence.
“The Super Awesome Edition” includes deleted scenes and a gag reel. There are also short interview segments about the meth party scene featuring Corddry, a scene where the quartet joins in with a Lesbian wedding party which features the film’s writer Phil Johnston, and a look at Mike Pyle rehearsing for an Irish clog dancing routine he does at the convention talent show. Finally there is one hell of a funny insurance company advertisement parody, “Top Notch Commercial.” All is all, Cedar Rapids makes for a nice evening’s entertainment.