The premise of Cedar Rapids is familiar: small town boy (Ed Helms) goes to the big city, and discovers a lot about himself, and who he thought he was. But in Miguel Arteta’s take, this story is both smaller and more perilous than previous versions. The big city is Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the peril is that the main character tries meth and hangs out with a prostitute. The film also has a killer line up of actors, with Helms playing alongside John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith and Thomas Lennon. My review of Cedar Rapids on Blu-ray after the jump.
Helms stars as Tim Lippe, a straight shooting insurance agent from a small town. His company prides itself on winning a two diamond rating, but when hit shot seller Roger Lemke (Thomas Lennon) dies of auto-erotic asphyxiation, Lippe has to go to the big city for the presentation. And going from Brown Valley, Wisconsin to Cedar Rapids is a big deal for him. He’s been dating Macy Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver) – who was his seventh grade teacher – and wants to get married, but she’s reticent.
Once he gets to Cedar Rapids, he learns he’s bunking with Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) – the first black man he’s ever met – and Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), who his boss told him was nothing but trouble. Lippe isn’t much of a drinker and the conventions hard-partying ways is byeond him – it takes him a while to have a drink and relax. But he does meet Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), and he’s attracted.
But for most everyone else Lippe is a total square. He doesn’t know the reason why his company has been doing so well, and after a wild night, he ends up sleeping with Joan – but Joan is married and often uses the convetion to have sex with people she won’t see much of, while Macy was recently divorced and isn’t looking for more than sex. Lippe’s world goes upside down.
There are two ways to view this movie. One is that it’s a movie-movie, and so it’s just playing with conventions of the genre, and by putting it in Cedar Rapids over – say – New York, it’s changing the stakes. But then it also goes much darker than most of those movies do, and by the time Lippe is tweaking, it’s all about messing with the conventions. And to that end the movie succeeds with a winning cast. It’s also fun to see Whitlock Jr. outside of The Wire. The other side is that the film is very typical of what tea partiers refer to when they talk about Hollywood and its mentality. That it casts its small-town characters as rubes who need to be shook of their small-town ways. Part of the joke of the movie is that almost everyone is either square or a total loser. I thought that the film mostly worked as a genre exercise, but there is a sense of contempt. Ultimately the film is reasonably funny, and doesn’t waste a lot of time (it’s a nice hour and a half of comedy), and the archetypes of the genre make this fun to watch.
Fox presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The transfer is excellent, as the film is hitting Blu-ray the year of release. The film also comes with a digital copy. There are six deleted scenes (7 min.), a gag reel (4 min.), seven “Convention Connection” (13 min.) pieces, which interview the stars of the movie about the film. “Mike O’Malley – Urban Clogger” (3 min.) shows an actor training for a joke in the film. “Tweaking in the USA” (6 min.) highlights the wild party Lippe goes to, while “Wedding Belles – Crashing a Lesbian Wedding” (4 min.) focuses on that scene. “Top Notch Commercial” (1 min.) offers a fake TV spot, while the disc wraps up with Fox Movie channel profiles of director Miguel Arteta (7 min.) and writer Phil Johnson (7 min.).