Cedar Rapids stars Ed Helms as Tim Lippe as a candid and underachieving insurance agent from a tiny little town somewhere in Wisconsin. Just so you have an idea of how “tiny little” this town is for Tim Lippe, Cedar Rapids, Iowa feels like the Big City. This is the story about Tim Lippe’s first weekend in the Big City. It is a coming of age story of a man who is already an adult but hasn’t quite grown up.
The film’s humor lifts off almost immediately. We are quickly introduced to Tim and learn that he has been sleeping with his 7th grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver) for the last year. Tim might not be as sheltered as Steve Carell’s character in the 40-year-old Virgin but sleeping with one’s 7th grade teacher when you are 40 isn’t much of a difference.
Anyhow, Tim’s big moment arrives when the company’s star agent dies in an erotic asphyxiation accident and someone is needed to go to the annual Midwest insurer’s convention in Cedar, Rapids Iowa. This is probably the first time Tim will step out of his little town in Wisconsin. The film draws most of its early laughs from Tim’s fascination with being in the “Big City”. It is funny for us since most movies would have someone from Cedar Rapids moving to say New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, which are big cities from anyone’s perspective. Yet, we are delighted by Tim’s appreciation for the tackiness of the hotel, “I feel like I’m in Barbados,” he says, and by his inexperience in the real world.
At the convention Tim meets three other insurance agents: The docile but large Roland (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who is a fan of The Wire and is likely Tim’s first encounter with a black person, the brash and vulgar Dean Ziggler “Deanzi” (John C. Reilly), whom Tim is warned to stay away from and Joan (Anne Heche), married woman who sees the convention as an escape from family life. They all have their personal dilemmas and you get the feeling that Cedar Rapids is the one place they can all be themselves. Then there is also Bree (Alia Shawkat) a friendly hooker who hangs around the hotel looking for clients.
There is a wonderful all the actors; they give all the characters a sense about what it means to meet a group of people one weekend and know that they will your friends for a long time. John C. Riley deserves a special ovation for his performance by far the best thing in the whole movie. It is wild and vulgar jest still contained in reality. We have all met a guy like Deanzie, a person who will party all night till the sun comes up and then some more. To those that don’t party people like Dienzie generally look like as wholes but a person’s true heart arises when the hang over strikes.