Journal film critic Charlie Myers has been on vacation in Portland, Ore., the city that steals Humboldt County's youth. One of the perks of the place is that movies there often get released on their actual release date. So while Cedar Rapids starts today in local theaters, it's been up there for weeks.
Through the magic of fiber-optic techno-hoses (or something) Charlie sent along his review, which we bring to you now in its entirety, four-and-a-half days before it will show up in our print edition. Enjoy:
Having attended graduate school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, I was vaguely aware that Cedar Rapids was not far away. But back then, there was no ready reason for ever going to Cedar Rapids, a moderate-sized city with no apparent distinction, at least for this out-of-state, Iowa-ignorant graduate theatre major who was attending school in the "Athens of the Midwest".
Subsequently, my closest friend at the university got a job teaching at a community college in Cedar Rapids so I did actually visit there a few times, but I confess to having no memory whatsoever of the place. No matter. As it turns out, the film was actually shot in Ann Arbor because of a tax break provided by Michigan not available in Iowa, so I wouldn't have recognized anything anyway.
Like my old image of the city, Cedar Rapids is a pleasantly entertaining comedy without any real distinction. Even as I was enjoying the film I realized that in six months it would barely register. But I am happy to take my pleasure where I can.
The story centers on Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, "The Office"; The Hangover), an idealistic insurance agent who learns a few of the facts of life when he is sent to a conference in Cedar Rapids, which may give you an idea of how sheltered he was before in Wisconsin. Tim actually believes that insurance agents are a force for good, but when he meets his fellow agents at the conference, he discovers that his views are not widely shared.
You might have thought that his unpleasant boss Bill (Stephen Root) or his paramour Macy (a wonderful Sigourney Weaver), who also was his seventh grade teacher, might have wised him up.
As it turns out, though, his education comes from the help of three conferees who guide him through the turmoil and cynicism of the "real" world: his roommate Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr), outwardly crass salesman Dean (John C. Reilly) and, particularly, straying married saleswoman Joan (an excellent Anne Heche who embodies her character to perfection).
There are no great revelations here, just a solid film expertly helmed by Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl). And, for a change, the ending is an entirely appropriate and satisfying comic resolution. Rated R for language, drugs and a little sex. 87m. At the Broadway