Cedar Rapids Miguel Arteta

Cedar Rapids Miguel Arteta
With its The 40-Year-Old Virgin premise of small-town rube Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) travelling to the big city, where he's corrupted by prostitutes, blackmailers and drug addicts, the assumption of Cedar Rapids is that of generic boy comedy shenanigans. It makes sense, since Helms is coming off a Hangover high and co-star John C. Reilly stars in about three of these a year.

But if you look closely, you'll notice a producer credit for clever satirist Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt) and that director Miguel Arteta has consistently gravitated towards awkward humour regarding the nature of socialization and the dangers of naivety in a naturally cynical world (Chuck & Buck, Year of the Dog).

Tim Lippe fits this mould, having a wide-eyed innocence that borders on dangerous while gallivanting through an insurance conference in the titular Cedar Rapids. His idiocy endears him to the world-weathered Joan (Anne Heche) and the desperately crude Dean (Reilly), who rediscover youthful idealism and dorky whimsy vicariously through their new, exaggeratedly sweet-natured friend.

This core connection grounds and gives the film heart, creating a strange vacuum of silence around the intermittent crudity about "cornholing retards" and so on. It's as though there is a quiet mockery of the typical laugh triggers in modern comedy, since the crassness comes off as childish and gauche through Arteta's eyes.

Resultantly, we wind up with a smarter than expected story of crushed ideals and the importance of connection in a callous, self-serving world. There is comedy within, mostly during latter scenes when Lippe smokes crack with a whore (Alia Shawkat) and she lovingly indicates that he can use her fundament as a pleasure centre (only phrased with less delicacy).

Those looking for a conventional comedy of broadly sketched scenarios will likely be disappointed in the lack of sight gags and overt guffaws. But anyone keen on stepping back and assessing the nature of current comedy trends and the sorts of socially abject characters that inhabit them might find this title curious and surprisingly insightful. (Fox)