Miguel Arteta has made a name for himself as a reliable director of slick, out-of-the-ordinary and occasionally dark comedies ('Chuck & Buck', 'Youth in Revolt'). In 'Cedar Rapids', he mixes crude humour with a sweet storyline. Although the movie is slow at the start, the superb cast and likeable characters deserve your patience.
Tim Lippe (Helms) is a thirty-something insurance salesman who does everything by the book. Not only has he never stayed in a hotel or travelled by plane, but he has never even ventured outside his small Wisconsin hometown. Tim's main problem is that he is too nice for his own good, and quite often his happy-go-lucky attitude renders him completely naïve in many situations - especially in regards to his steamy relationships with a former teacher (Weaver) and prostitute (Shawkat).
When his company's star salesman dies in a raunchy accident, Tim's ruthless boss (Root) insists that he attends an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids in the hope of bagging the coveted 'Two Diamonds' status for the firm. Although Tim is asked to suck up to insurance president Orin (Smith), he quickly loses sight of the prize and engages in some wild partying antics with fellow insurance agents including; the fun-loving Dean (Reilly), the not-so-single-but-ready-to-mingle Joan (Heche) and the adorable Ronald (Whitlock).
It's refreshing to see Helms stepping out of his comfort zone of supporting roles in the likes of 'The Hangover' and 'The US Office' and displaying his comedic flair in a lead role. He plays the character of the kind-hearted and likeable guy to perfection, and gives Steve Carell's epic performance in 'Dinner for Schmucks' some serious competition.
John C Reilly's character's free-spirited attitude towards life makes for some delicious gags here - most notably in a scene involving a bin lid and a swimming pool - and the unforeseen twist involving him adds some depth to 'Cedar Rapids'. Isiah Whitlock also has his fair share of show-stopping moments, and the scene where he mimics a character from HBO's 'The Wire' proves to be one of the highlights.
Anne Heche is a breath of fresh air in the predominantly male led cast, and she plays the part of the flirtatious and outgoing insurance associate effortlessly. Although he doesn't have much onscreen time, Smith's character's awkward encounter with Helms' Tim in the changing rooms makes sure that he is not forgotten!
On the whole, the script for 'Cedar Rapids' brings nothing new to the comedy genre, and the predictable storyline doesn't leave much to the imagination. However, the occasional witty one-liners and message of self-discovery compensate.
Although the movie's mix of crude and tender won't be for everyone, the terrific cast guarantees that a trip to the cinema will be worthwhile.