Cedar Rapids 
Directors: Miguel Arteta
Oh, Ed Helms, you sly devil. When I saw you for the first time on The Office, I didn’t like your character. Andy Bernard was obnoxious and sometimes just plain annoying, and I didn’t want him on the show at all. Yet something happened. I started to laugh at some of his actions, and then he began an epic rivalry with Dwight Schrute. How could I not like the guy after that? Seeing Ed Helms in one of the best roles in The Hangover helped him earn even more respect from me, so much so that I eagerly anticipated Cedar Rapids, a recent comedy in which he obtained his first leading role.
In this movie, Helms stars as Tim Lippe, a small town insurance agent who is sent by his company to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an annual industry convention. His goal is to win the coveted “Two Diamond” award for his company. Leaving his hometown is something new for Tim. He makes sure to carry a travel wallet underneath his shirt — he is in a big city after all — and he is impressed by his hotel and its pool: “There’s palm trees and the whole place smells like chlorine. It’s like I am in Barbados or somewhere.”
As a naive young man, Lippe is easily influenced by others at his convention, particularly the amusing trio of characters played by John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Anne Heche. Reilly plays a party animal, par for the course for him, and dishes out some great lines (and lots of “muff diving” references). I was glad to see Whitlock have a good-sized role here, since I don’t recall seeing him in anything other than The Wire. He even makes a couple of hilarious references to the HBO show, which made me very, very happy. Heche fits right in with the guys as a sultry vixen who holds her own and keeps the men on their toes. All four of the main characters provide some very entertaining moments while maintaining a human aspect to them. They never devolve into caricatures of themselves, which is a huge plus.
The actors that fill out small roles are tremendous as well. Sigourney Weaver plays Lippe’s love interest and former grade-school teacher. Kurtwood Smith (aka “Red” from That 70’s Show) plays the leader of the convention, a man who is comfortable in his own skin, to say the least. Alia Shawkat (aka “Maeby” from Arrested Development) is entertaining as a prostitute who Lippe obtains a strange interest in. Rob Corddry, Mike O’Malley and Thomas Lennon all have brief cameos, too.
While Cedar Rapids doesn’t really break any new ground, it is a fun ride from beginning to end. The plot pretty much goes as you expect it to, but that’s not a bad thing at all when there is such a strong cast to support it. Big props are deserved for Ed Helms, who does a great job in his first leading role. I would like to see him branch out more next time and try a new type of character, but there’s no denying he is good at what he does. Cedar Rapids is one of the best comedies to come out in the last year or so, and it is well worth seeing.