Saturday, 7 May 2011

CEDAR RAPIDS review

Starring The Office and The Hangover star Ed Helms in his first lead role, Cedar Rapids in now out in cinemas. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...



When his colleague dies in an auto-erotic asphyxiation accident, insurance salesman Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is forced to attend the annual conference at Cedar Rapids to deliver a speech that will hopefully continue his company's award winning success. However, on arrival he meets Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), perhaps the worst role model a young, susceptible mind like Tim's could be exposed to. Tim soon learns to let loose and enjoy himself, but his antics also put his career in jeopardy.


I've been a fan of the American version of The Office for a long time and consider it to be its own entity that shouldn't be constantly compared to the equally good but different UK original. One of the highlights of the American series is Ed Helm's character of Andy Bernard (aka The Nard-dog), a character not based on any UK equivalent that joined in the third series. What was supposed to be a limited run from the sometime Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms turned into a featured player role that has seen him become a favourite among fans of the series. Sweet, optimistic but filled with rage and neuroses, Andy Bernard epitomises all the best parts of the American series.


Why am I going into such detail of Ed Helms' role on The Office in this review of Cedar Rapids? Well, it's important I give you at least a brief introduction to that character because he's basically playing the same one here. Tim Lippe is a perfectly nice chap, pursuing a romance with his old school teacher (played by Sigourney Weaver) and generally being open minded about life. In his career and his love life he's caught in arrested development, and needs a push like the Cedar Rapids conference to prove to himself he's a worthwhile human being. Ed Helms is very good at playing the sweet everyman in over his head, perfected via his roles in The Office and The Hangover. This is the first film with him as the lead, albeit with a strong team behind him.


Backing Helms up is John C. Reilly, doing the now familiar obnoxious man-child routine that he does so well. Reilly's been doing this for so long now it's inconceivable that he was known as a dramatic actor before Will Ferrell gave him his career rebirth, although perhaps the act is wearing a little thin now. Cedar Rapids also has a surprisingly sweet turn from Anne Heche, destroying the image I had of her as a heartless ice queen. Along with The Wire's Isiah Whitlock Jr and Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat, there's an interestingly diverse comic team at play here.


Unfortunately where Cedar Rapids fails is in delivering any memorable laughs. Director Miguel Arteta's previous film was the joyously anarchistic Youth In Revolt, a film that mined its rebellious coming of age story for all its comic worth. Here he's not been so successful. If I was to compare Cedar Rapids to The Office (a place I've never worked), I can find plenty of things to relate to there as the situations are often universal, but here it's a lot less relatable, a lot of the jokes seemingly reliant on you having a knowledge of insurance practices and having been on a similar retreat. There's also a strange but overwhelming feeling of uncomfortableness running through the film that distracts from the comic situations. If you've seen any of Arteta's previous work with Mike White (Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl), you'll know what tone to expect.


An enjoyable experience based on the sweet natured performance of Ed Helms, Cedar Rapids delivers a few laughs but none that will stay with you for long. Far from a classic, Cedar Rapids is perhaps one best saved for DVD.


Verdict

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