Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is an equally loveable and naive insurance salesman from the tiny town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. After the death of his company's top salesman, Tim is sent to his first insurance convention in the thriving metropolis of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At this convention he is to deliver a speech which will earn his company the coveted Two Diamond Award and thereby secure his own job and the jobs of his coworkers. Cedar Rapids, however, turns out to be a much more distracting place than Tim could have ever imagined and soon he is engaging in all manner of shenanigans with Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), the notorious black sheep of the Midwestern insurance game. Can Tim get his act together in time to save his company or will the temptations of life on the road get the better of him?
At its very core, "Cedar Rapids" is basically a coming of age film that focuses on the middle years of life rather than the formative teen years. It's quite quirky as well and as such, the comedy is less laugh-out-loud funny and more snicker to oneself. That's not necessarily a bad thing by any means, it just caught me off guard. I expected this film to run closer to "The 40 Year Old Virgin" than anything else; instead, it's much more like "Up in the Air" done as a comedy. Helms does a good job of creating a relatively realistic vision of Tim Lippe. He's slightly overdone at times but for the most part, you can believe that a 35 year old who'd never left Brown Valley, Wisconsin would act the way he does when exposed to the great, wide world. Helms is always charming in his very dorky, unassuming way and this is no exception. His surrounding cast, particularly Reilly (always great in my book) and a much-more-appealing-than-ever-before Anne Heche, play off of his charm to create an entertaining crew of characters that I enjoyed watching.
What keeps "Cedar Rapids" from being a high quality indie comedy is its lack of heart. I've railed on and on in the past about heart and emotion in film so I won't go too far here. But the truth is, there's not a whole lot to connect the audience to the characters in this film. It's a fun story and I enjoyed the quirks but "Rapids" could have been, and probably should have been, more heartfelt. At the same time, it doesn't have the comedic teeth of other recent R rated comedies. As a result, this film doesn't really have a true identity and struggles to keep its own pace throughout the whole runtime. In short, it is flawed but worth a viewing.