CEDAR RAPIDS


A movie that came out of nowhere and got mixed reviews, mainly because it’s formulaic and predictable. However, it’s actually much better than that. It’s an example of the sort of movie that can result from the book Save the Cat by someone who has talent (here writer Phil Johnston)—by no means a classic and it takes no chances and does nothing new, but it is involving and gives middle brow movies a good name. Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a total innocent, so innocent he doesn’t know when he’s having an affair rather than falling in love. Helms and Johnston, and director Miguel Arteta, do something nice here; usually characters this innocent are unbearable, but Lippe is someone you actually like, like so much that you fear for him losing his innocence. He’s a happy and contented fool, so happy and contented you wish he could stay that way. He is sent at the last minute to an insurance convention where he is to win a religious award for his company and soon starts drinking, having sex with a married woman, taking drugs and hanging out with a prostitute. He also, more importantly, becomes fast friends with the decadent Dean Ziegler, played with a joi de vivre and so fully self aware of his faults by John C. Reilly that you soon realize that Lippe’s in good hands. The story works itself out pretty much the way you think it’s going to, though it’s entertaining enough on the way there. The attack on religion and Christianity is a bit too easy and on the nose (as is the casting of the reliable Kurtwood Smith in the role of spiritual leader, a character he’s been playing at least since Dead Poet’s Society). It’s the least imaginative part of the film, but it also gets the job done. If you want to feel good, it’s a perfectly satisfying film to see.

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