Thirty-four-year-old Brown Star Insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, “The Office”) from Brown Valley, Wisconsin takes his first airplane ride in “Cedar Rapids.” He lands in a sweetly moral comedy set in the Iowa city hosting a regional insurance convention. Implausibly simple, Lippe may as well be Truman’s cousin from “The Truman Show.” He checks into the Royal Cedar Suites, where caricatured midwesterners are prone to cornball wordplay. Badger State writer Phil Johnston and director Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl,” “Chuck & Buck”) tease politely as Tim competes for an annual award. For two years running, a colleague from his office won. A last-minute session of auto-erotic asphyxiation gone wrong takes him out of the running this year. “Community, country and God” are the bywords of the convention organizer whose unsuspected corrupt streak will test Lippe’s unmocked integrity. Formulaic defaults include a hooker sweet on a sucker, squares making a getaway from a white trash party, new pals rallying to save the day, and our hero coming clean and shaming a schemer in a tell-all soul-baring climax. More remarkable than the flyover-state condescension of “Cedar Rapids” is its winning Pollyanna stance. Producers Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor earlier brought us “Election,” “About Schmidt” and “Sideways.” With John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Alia Shawkat, Mike O’Malley, Rob Corddry, Seth Morris, Sigourney Weaver. 86m. (Bill Stamets)
“Cedar Rapids” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.