Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Laughs and Heart, a rare combo in movies...

Question.   How long has Anne Heche been a total fox?  Seriously.  Have I just missed it all these years?  This weekend I definitely took notice when I saw her in a supporting role in the comedy Cedar Rapids.  Ms. Heche was mighty fine and sexy in the movie.  Now, this was by no way the reason I will give my stamp of approval on Cedar Rapids, but it sure was an added bonus.

Many of you probably don’t even know what movie I am talking about.  So, because of that I will allow you to take a moment and Google the shit out of it.  Hit up Apple for the trailer or IMDB for the details.  Come back and skip a paragraph because I need to rant for a second.

You know, part of my job involves me giving customers web support when they can’t seem to get our site working for them.  A lot of it is just helping them reset their passwords because they forgot.  That’s not so bad.  But then I get the people who shouldn’t even be allowed on the internet.  I can’t even tell you how many times someone calls with some confusion about the website, only to discover that I can’t fix it because they aren’t anywhere near a frickin computer.  That’s like going to a mechanic without your car.  Really people?  Really?  Next week I will rant about the dumb asses who don’t know how to use their web browser.

Okay, so we are caught up now.   Cedar Rapids stars Ed Helms as Tim Lippe, an insurance agent from Brown Valley, Wisconsin.  Tim is a sheltered man who has never really experienced much of the world outside of his home town.  Hell, he is even banging one of his teachers from middle school (played by Sigourney Weaver), and is in a delusional state of “love” with her.  Needless to say, he has a shell of a life and doesn’t even know it.

When a colleague of Lippe’s dies in a tragic and comedic way, he is thrust into the spotlight when his boss sends him to a conference in Cedars Rapids, Iowa.  Lippe’s mission is to go to the conference and wow his peers enough to win his agency’s fourth consecutive Double Diamond Award.  He is on strict orders to stay focused and do his agency proud.  Specifically, he is told to stay away from a known client poacher by the name of Dean Zeigler (John C Reily).  Zeigler is a brash and vulgar man with many vices who is not afraid to let loose.  He clearly has a lot of stories to tell, which makes him a polar opposite of Tim Lippe.

Lippe’s goal is sidetracked by the fact that he quickly befriends Zeigler and two other agents named Ronald Wilkes (Isaiah Whitlock Jr.) and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Heche).   Ronald is a sensible man and may be the first black man that Lippe had ever seen in person.  Joan is a married mother of two who attends weekend conferences as a way to unwind.  The long and short of the plot is that Lippe is introduced to a lot of stimuli that he was not privy to in small town Wisconsin.  There are some drugs, some alcohol, and some sex thrown at him.  Needless to say, his life and mission are thrown upside down.

The long and short of it is that Cedar Rapids is a typical story about a guy from a small town who goes to the big city and is a fish out of water – but with not so typical results.   The movie does not move along like it is just another cookie cutter comedy.  When it is funny, it is superbly hilarious.  When it is awkward, it is pleasantly uncomfortable.  When the movie wants to have some serious moments, they are full of legitimate heart.  Rather than just throw together a series of jokes, the filmmakers of Cedar Rapids told a story that was actually funny.  That’s something that Adam Sandler should consider for his next movie (besides leaving Kevin James out of it).

Most of you will know Ed Helms from his role as Andy Bernard on The Office or as Stu in The Hangover.  He hasn’t really had himself a lead role before.  In The Hangover, he was still second fiddle to Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifinakis, but showed his potential.  In Cedar Rapids he shows that he has the chops to carry his own movie.  Also, Helms shows that he has range in his performance and will not be typecast into any particular role.  Most of all, Helms is likable which plays off nicely with the questionable nature of John C. Reily’s morally ambiguous Dean Zeigler.

Reily steals the show.  In a movie full of laughs, he brings the majority of them.  As the movie goes on he crafts a character from being an overzealous asshole into a guy you can’t help but like.  The one scene that will have you talking involves Dean Zeigler drunk in a swimming pool and wearing a garbage can lid as a helmet.  I laugh just thinking about it. 

Cedar Rapids is by no means on the same level as The Hangover or The 40 Year Old Virgin, but it is as good, if not better than any other comedy released in 2011.  It may not have been promoted that heavily, but that is not indicative on the quality of the movie.  If you have a brain, a funny bone, and a heart, you’ll give this one two thumbs up.