With a script plucked off the Blacklist and Miguel Arteta behind the camera, stellar buzz out of Sundance saw Cedar Rapids primed to become the sleeper comedy hit of the year.
After the unfortunate death of a superstar co-worker, the responsibility of representing BrownStar Insurance at regional conference falls to Tim Lippe (Helms), but for a man who had never stepped foot on a plane before, it’s quite the eye opener, and one giant leap out of his comfort zone.
Falling under the wings of convention veterans Ronald Wilkes (Whitlock Jr.), Dean Ziegler (Reilly) and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Heche), naïve and super-straight Tim is quickly forced to spread his wings, but when he finds out what it will take to bring home the much-coveted Two Diamonds Award his boss has tasked him with winning, even in his more adventurous state of mind, he struggles to come to terms with pulling off such a coup.
Whether the screenplay was over-rated in its Blacklist inclusion, or a lot of its charm and wit were lost in the direction, unfortunately Cedar Rapids doesn’t do enough to draw in the viewer like it should.
The acting talent across the board is commendable but there isn’t enough comedy, nor charm or plot development either. The film lacks a pace and urgency, and feels throughout like it could have been so much better, but didn’t take the chances to do it.
Ed Helms does his reputation no harm, and though John C. Reilly is hugely aggravating at first, he will win you over by the end, but like the film in general, while they’re very watchable, it’s all just a little bland. Cedar Rapids can’t decide if it wants to be an R-rated romp or much sweeter comedy-drama, and in the end, falls inadequately between the two; it’s too modest for the former, but struggles to provide a pay off only until right at the end for the latter.
A great final act goes some way to saving it, but on the whole, Cedar Rapids is still very disappointing.