The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Film hilarious, charming, potentially discomforting

By Joshua Knopp/managing editor

Old stories that have been told a thousand times, when done right, are still funny. Cedar Rapids is a demonstration of this principle.

Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) and Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) dine on sushi after winning a conference-wide scavenger hunt. Lippe slowly begins to relax in a scene from Cedar Rapids.
Photo courtesy Fox Searchlight

The movie focuses on Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), an incredibly naïve insurance agent who has never left his Wisconsin hometown. When the agent his company initially planned to send dies in an all-too-public auto-erotic asphyxiation accident, Lippe is forced to attend an annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When he arrives, three colleagues (Isiah Whitlock Jr., Anne Heche and the supremely talented John C. Reilly) involve Lippe in their mischief, and he begins to lose his innocence.

Cedar Rapids distinguishes itself from other coming-of-age movies with the power of its script. Dialogue gives every character deep background in few words, developing the characters to a fine point without taking screen time that could be used for laughs. Speaking of laughs, the movie’s jokes walk a fine line between hilarity and flat-out discomfort.

The other pole holding this movie up is the acting. Helms, who also produced, and Reilly strike a chord with each other and drive the film to heights the script alone could not. Heche and Kurtwood Smith also deserve mention in supporting roles as actors who drive the movie.

There is plenty not to like about Cedar Rapids, however. First and foremost, it is a coming-of-age movie. These films have a predictability to them that just can’t be escaped. No matter how funny Cedar Rapids makes the story, if the filmmakers don’t change the story, audiences looking for something new will be turned off.

Another thing that could turn audiences off is how often the characters are turned on. The auto-erotic asphyxiation accident sets the tone for Reilly’s constant oral sex references, Helms’ sexual involvement with two (almost three) characters and an ocean of double entendres. Everything said is funny, but audience members could become uncomfortable.

A final reason to avoid this film is if one holds “traditional values.” Lippe’s coming of age involves drinking, adultery, marijuana and a prostitute’s friendship, all of which are portrayed as positives. In contrast, the Christian values that surround the award Lippe is after are thrown into constant doubt and eventually discarded entirely. The film implies that one makes one’s own rules, an extremely progressive stance not everyone agrees with.

Cedar Rapids is a wonderful comedy, but many people might not see it that way.

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