Cedar Rapids Miguel Arteta

Cedar Rapids Miguel Arteta
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, only slightly re-tooling his sweet/dorky persona from The Office), a 30something small town Wisconsin insurance agent, is a naïf's naïf: blinkered, happily provincial and too innocent even to distinguish his one bid for maturity – a sort-of-icky fling with his old grade school teacher (turbo-MILF Sigourney Weaver) – from an actual adult relationship. He's not just sweet, but also a little dim – his boss's appraisal: "Here's a kid who's going to go places, and then somehow… you just didn't." So when his piously upstanding firm's star rainmaker hangs himself –Tim takes as suicide what the rest of the world knows is autoerotic asphyxiation – he is shocked to be asked to pinch hit at the big industry confab in the (for him) four-alarm Gomorrah that is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In short order, our wide-eyed Candide gets a compressed indoctrination into big city life, not just taking his first flight, meeting his first African American, sipping his first cocktail, but because he's a busy beaver, doing extra credit work in adultery, prostitution and abusing meth. But worse than all the debauchery (the not terribly judgmental filmmakers assure us) is the threat to Tim's moral compass. The movie likens the upper Midwest insurance game to academic politics – vicious because the stakes are so small – and, when sober and upright, Tim can't turn around without discovering some new petty corruption or venal scam. His heroic test becomes whether to surrender to his suddenly informed, ethically sketchy worldview or do right by his salt-of-the-earth clients and his own good-hearted geekiness. The innocent-in-the-big-city narrative spine is so sclerotic that Cedar Rapids must stand (mostly) or fall on how charmingly it can drape across the details, and director Arteta is lucky to get particularly stellar supporting work from Tim's crew of new conventioneer buddies/mentors: John C. Reilly, whose jolly vulgarian knows more dick jokes than you've had hot dinners; Isiah Whitlock Jr. as the world's whitest black man, whose Omar impression will slay Wire fan boys; and Anne Heche, the housewife/temptress who, à la Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air, is neither as desperate nor one-dimensional as she appears. The weakest link is Helms. The no-longer-so-edgy Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) condescends horribly to Tim, pushing him beyond simple naiveté to borderline retardation. He alone seems more a plot contrivance than a living, breathing character, and so the question of his ultimate redemption doesn't compel. The eclectic packet of extras includes deleted scenes (many of an unusually includable calibre), a gag reel, featurettes on clog dancing, lesbian weddings and the lighter side of meth addiction, and a Peckinpah-esque fake ad for Lippe's firm. Missing, oddly (and happily?) enough is a commentary track. (Fox)