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Cedar Rapids - Blu-ray Movie Review

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Cedar Rapids - Movie Review

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4 stars

Ed Helms and company give heartland-comedy refreshing new life with the recent Sundance darling, Cedar Rapids. Helms, the executive producer of the film as well as its main character, is slowly inching his sweet little naïve self into the forefront as the honorary ambassador of raunch-com, a title not so long ago held by such luminaries as Judd Apatow, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen.

But raunch-comedy isn’t really the right description for this film. Though a cousin to 2009’s lewd-fest The Hangover, in which Helms also starred, Cedar Rapids relies less on crude jokes and vulgar sight gags (though it undoubtedly has its fair share of those). It instead goes to America’s conservative heartland to pull much of its appeal from bumpkin-in-the-big-city embarrassment and lewd–plus-sweetness humor. Let’s call it a Midwestern.

Helms is Tim Lippe, a sheltered thirty-something insurance agent who has never left his small Wisconsin home town, has never stayed at a hotel, and has never experienced anything as exciting as Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  When sent to represent his company at the annual insurance convention, Tim is quickly distracted by three convention veterans (Anne Heche, John C. Reilly, and Isiah Whilock, Jr.) who will not only show him the ropes of the big city, but ultimately turn it into the journey of a man finding the confidence to be who he really is.

Upon his arrival in Cedar Rapids, his friend, Dean Zieglar (John C. Reilly) gives the wide-eyed Tim a stern warning that would be helpful to anyone on his first visit to the big city, “Welcome to the jungle, Timbo.” Of course, the warning is lost on Tim as he thinks the girl bumming a smoke in front of the hotel every day is just looking to be his friend. And imagine his shock when Tim discovers that his roommate is a large man in the form of Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (The Wire), likely the first black man he’s ever seen. Whitlock, as Ron “the Ronimal,” is also in on the joke as he gives a clever little send up to his Wire character, State Senator Clay Davis. Ron is a good guy, a little bit nerdy, quite conservative in his demeanor and the way he carries himself, but ironically, his meeting with Tim leads to a bit of a coming out for himself as well.

Dean Zieglar becomes the third roommate as the infamously foul-mouthed insurance agent Tim was warned to avoid, but ultimately befriends. When the trio pays a visit to the hotel bar, they’re joined by the red-haired siren of the insurance business, Joan Ostrowski-Fox who sees the annual convention as an opportunity to sow some wild oats. When a brief sexual interlude with Tim leads to a case of the next-morning-regrets, Joan pulls him to the side and reminds him of their vow of silence, “remember what I told you, whatever happens in Cedar Rapids, stays in Cedar Rapids.”

As the weekend wears on, the story takes a much darker turn down the avenue of Superbad or The Hangover, with drunken swimming pool seductions, drug-fueled house parties, speedy car getaways, and next morning reconstructions. But the film’s new dark tone is skillfully tempered by the way writer Phil Johnston has constructed Helms’ character. Tim is initially an enchantingly guileless innocent faced with a world of unfamiliar vices, but as the debauchery ramps up, he remains a noble character who still manages to hold on to his sweet, funny, optimistic ways of looking at things. In other words, he doesn’t take the classic tailspin into an enraged fit or reckless downward spiral. He remains lovable.

As strong and instrumental to the success of the film as is Helms, director Miguel Arteta is doubly so. He knows that characters in painful situations will translate to “funny” for an audience only as long as the comedy isn’t based on shop-worn jokes and over-the-top obnoxiousness. There’s a fine line between broad humor and clever smarts – Arteta walks it like a Wallenda. As a result, Cedar Rapids is a delightfully goofy little comedy likely to vault everyone involved into a role of emissaries of this “new” brand of self-deprecating humor with America's heartland at the end of its poking stick… let’s call it Midwestern Comedy.

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{2jtab: Film Details}

Cedar Rapids - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use.
Director
: Miguel Arteta
Writer
: Phil Johnston
Cast:
Ed Helms; John C. Reilly; Anne Heche; Isiah Whitlock, Jr.; Stephen Root; Kurtwood Smith; Alia Shawkat
Genre
: Comedy
Memorable Movie Quote:
"What's the matter, Tim, You've never seen a chocolate/vanilla love sandwich before?"
Distributor:
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Tagline:
Today Is The First Day... Of The Rest Of His Weekend.
Official Site: www.foxsearchlight.com/cedarrapids
Release Date: February 18, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
June 21, 2011

Plot Synopsis: To call insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), "naive" is a gross understatement. He's never left his small hometown. He's never stayed at a hotel. And he's never experienced anything like Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sent to represent his company at the annual insurance convention, Tim is soon distracted by three convention veterans (John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who will show him the ropes and push his boundaries. For a guy who plays everything by the book, this convention will be anything but conventional.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Review}

Cedar Rapids - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 21, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH; French; Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (on disc); BD-Live
Playback: Region A

Shot digitally, the 1080p/AVC-encoded image will make you swear a 35mm film was used.  The comedy is loaded with rich colors and warm textures that pop out of every frame. Skin tones are natural and never orangey and the detail – down to the texture of John C. Reilly’s suit jackets – is impeccably rendered by the transfer. The front-loaded DTS- HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track isn’t as immersive as it could be, but this is only a comedy and it suffices for the experience of the film.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

There is no commentary, but there are a lot of comical featurettes and add-ons that make this disc worthy of its price.  Six deleted scenes take the viewer through what could have been and the gag real is a great addition.  There are a number of interview segments with the stars of the film and even a hilarious fake insurance commercial.  With a three-minute expose on Clogging, Cedar Rapids doesn’t disappoint.

  • Deleted Scenes (7 min)
  • Gag Reel (4 min)
  • Convention Connection (13 min)
  • Mike O'Malley: Urban Clogger (3 min)
  • Tweaking in the USA (6 min)
  • Wedding Belles: Crashing a Lesbian Wedding (4 min)
  • Top Notch Commercial (1 min)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: Direct Effect Miguel Arteta (7 min)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: Writer's Draft Phil Johnson (7 min)
  • Ed Helm's Mad Chopper Skills (2 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

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