Although not quite as raunchy as The Hangover (or The Hangover Part 2, same diff) it’s interesting to note the similarities between that blockbuster franchise and the little seen indie Cedar Rapids (deemed ‘little seen’ and ‘indie’ enough to play at the Sydney Film Festival earlier in the year). Both feature drug and alcohol-infused holidays abroad, both star Ed Helms as a hapless, seemingly straitlaced everyman, and in both he winds up romancing a prostitute. He certainly has a type.
While it’s clear new Office manager Helms isn’t ready to test audiences by playing against convention just yet, he proves he doesn’t need the Wolfpack by his side to carry a film. Well, maybe not that Wolfpack. As Wisconsin insurance salesman Tim Lippe – heading to the ‘big city’ of Cedar Rapids for an industry retreat – he meets a bunch of miscreants that are far more pleasant company than Phil and Alan (notably, they’re not terrible human beings). He parties with the riotous Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly, wonderfully loose), buttoned-down but kindly Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and the sassy Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche). Though he’s never before left his hometown – where he’s having an affair with his former high school teacher (Sigourney Weaver) – Lippe embraces the fast-paced world of Cedar Rapids and packs a lifetime of innocent (and not-so-innocent) troublemaking into a single weekend.
The cast is inherently likable, and the comedy is pleasantly sweet-natured (even if crack pipes, c-bombs and references to The Wire abound). What director Miguel Arteta‘s latest suffers from is the narrative thrust to keep one interested once the first 45 minutes flit by (and it’s certainly lacking the visual panache of his Youth in Revolt, which tied a series of vignettes into a nice ambling comedy). The character of Lippe, created by writer Phil Johnston, only gets us so far. Still, I’d rather revisit this foursome in a sequel sooner than see The Hangover 3 (even if I was one of the few critics to give Part 2 a passing grade).
Cedar Rapids arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia January 11, 2012.