@ The Neon
March 11, 2011
Ed Helms (The Hangover, The Office) somehow summons a more naive and innocent Andy Bernard in his portrayal of Tim Lippe in Cedar Rapids. Lippe is a trustworthy, small town insurance salesman whose lifetime of honesty and insurance adjusting has culminated in a dream assignment, a trip to the ASMI insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lippe’s task while in Cedar Rapids is to take home the coveted “2 Diamond” insurance award which goes to the agency that most closely sells insurance the way God would.
Lippe quickly learns during his first trip to the convention that Cedar Rapids is full of distractions that will not allow him to concentrate solely on the 2 Diamond award. The convention is an eye opening experience, as the very green Lippe encounters many insurance agents who view Cedar Rapids as a sort of Hedonism of the Midwest. One such agent, Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), Lippe has been expressly instructed to avoid. Of course, Lippe winds up sharing a room with Ziegler and discovers that avoiding him is impossible. Reilly’s Ziegler is a combination of every alcoholic blowhard you’ve ever encountered. Loud, obnoxious and frequently hilarious.
Spellbound by Ziegler, a morally ambiguous love interest named Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), and the lure of alcohol, drugs and sex that are readily available at the convention hotel, the impressionable Lippe loses sight of his task and allows himself to be consumed by Cedar Rapids the way a 21-year-old might react to seeing Vegas for the first time. Between Ziegler pressuring the group to let loose and their other roommate Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) serving as a voice of reason, Lippe humorously bounces back and forth between uncharacteristic debauchery and adhering to his nerdy, insurance-centric persona.
An 80 minute conversation between Ed Helms and John C. Reilly would likely be entertaining, so it’s no surprise that pairing them up, letting them develop characters at opposite ends of the moral spectrum and placing them in an absurd scenario resulted in funny scene after funny scene. The actual plot of the movie at times becomes an afterthought, as the directionless conversations between the four main characters take over. Fortunately, this was not problematic. It was more so the ridiculous dialogue between the characters than their circumstances that had The Neon opening night crowd guffawing throughout.
As endearing and captivating as Ed Helms was, it was really John C. Reilly who the audience wanted to see. He turned in the best comedic performance I’ve seen in some time, delivering all the humor you’d expect out of a drunken, divorced, loudmouthed insurance salesman.