Ed Helms — one of the stars of TV’s The Office — shines as a naive agent attending his first insurance agent convention.
Director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) and first time screenwriter Phil Johnson exaggerate things a bit but agent conventions — and in reality just about any small organization’s conventions — look a lot like this one. There’s the politics of the leaders, the wild party animals and members that are actually there to learn something.
Helms is Tim Lippe. It is his first ever trip out of his home town. Clearly out of his element, Lippe doesn’t think he belongs. He’d rather be at home doing things with his former grade school teacher and now lover. Lippe wants to marry her and tells everyone they’re “pre-engaged.”
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He’s out to win a prestigious trophy that his company has won before. A win means big bucks for the boss.
Cedar Rapids isn’t brain surgery. It’s straight ahead, easy-to-follow comedy. It’s about the importance of friendship and what friendship is all about and the things friends will do for each other when the chips are down.
Or you can look at it this way, Cedar Rapids — according to Arteta — is The Wizard of Oz of insurance with Helms as Dorothy. That may be a bit of a stretch, but the film is plenty fun and features excellent work from Helms, Anne Heche, John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver and some of the best known — and unknown — character actors in movie comedy.
I love insurance agents. I know a bunch of them. As part of my professional life, I’ve been to a dozen insurance agent conventions and the premise presented by Artega and Johnson isn’t far off.
If you listen to some media, insurance agents are greedy, uncaring slime balls who only care about the bottom line. For the most part, nothing could be further from the truth. They’re a blast to hang out with and are really wonderful people in one of the world’s most thankless jobs.
Cedar Rapids is as close to a tribute as this group is ever going to get.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated R for mature themes, language, partial nudity. It opens Friday, March 18 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.