Author’s note: I wrote this entire review thinking that the movie is titled “Cedar Falls” and the fact that I don’t care enough to hit “Find and Replace” to change it to “Cedar Rapids” should give an initial indication of the quality of this film.
A cranky editor once crankily told me that when reviewing a book, movie or band, you have to lead with some praise for your subject material, no matter how awful it really is. Success, it would seem, is contingent on the overall positivity of your paper. Based on personal observations of said editor, it is also contingent on how much schnapps you can drink in your office during lunch. I don’t quite understand why either of those things contributes to newspaper sales, but that’s why I’m the apprentice, and he has three DUIs. Because I’m not a grandparent, I don’t have any schnapps in my house, so I’m substituting whisky. The true mark of talent is the ability to improvise.
Cedar Rapids is a movie starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. That is the only positive thing I can think of about this movie.
Ignore the glowing reviews, the 6.6/10 IMDB rating and the 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie is awful. Ed Helms is an irritating, unlikeable sap who toils away in thankless anonymity for a deplorable company. I don’t know exactly what they do at this company, but it involves selling stuff and being an asshole. I think they sell insurance, or penny stocks, or CD club subscriptions or something, either way, it isn’t important. It’s about sales, it’s about the Midwest, and it’s about the most awful thing I’ve watched since either The Last Airbender, or Spiderman 3.
Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a something salesman living in the shadow of the company’s top dog, played by Rob Cordry. The top dog, whose name I don’t care about, is a terrible person in every regard. Like every other character in the film, he’s a gross caricature of a Midwesterner, combined with the predictable, stereotypical traits of a pushy, boorish salesman. Then, all of a sudden, he dies. Now Tim Lippe, the idiot that everyone hates, has to go to the big convention in Cedar Falls. I’ve never run a successful company, but if I did, I would have a strict policy stating that if the top guy in the company dies, the worst employee doesn’t have to take his role as the top guy. That’s common sense.
For some reason that is never explained, Tim is dating his 7th grade teacher, played unenthusiastically by Ripley from Alien. If starring in a movie where monsters routinely explode from inside people’s torsos is a big part of your career, starring in a movie where nothing happens ever and everything sucks is probably a letdown. Weaver emotes this sentiment with her face and wardrobe.
So now we’re in the big city of Cedar Rapids, watching some very predictable fish out of water scenarios. They have telephones in the rooms? What? A TV with a remote control? How can small town Tim Lippe deal with all this modernity? Fast forward about half an hour, unless you want to watch a terrible pastiche of Borat and Pleasantville. Uh oh, is that John C. Reilly?
Unfortunately for us all, it is. Like everyone living near an ocean, JCR clearly had no desire to be in the Midwest, or in this movie. Reilly’s character is another cookie cutter Midwestern asshole. He’s a loud, fat lothario whom I hate. Hit fastforward again, or endure another half hour of Reilly harassing Helms, women, and my sensibilities. Uh oh, is that Anne Heche?
Once again, unfortunately it is. Heche plays another salesperson, but somehow manages to craft a character so two dimensional character that it makes her Lois Lane look like Jessica Rabbit. Is she a love interest for Helms? I don’t care, and neither will you.
From here on out, you can pretty much guess where this goes. Fish out of water, sexy lady, obnoxious John C. Reilly. It toils on in that direction for another 45 unpleasant minutes. Ed Helms gets himself into some pickles, has sex with that lady, enters a talent show, for some reason, and then learns a valuable lesson about something. I think the lesson is about spreading your small town wings and learning to fly, or realizing that the most precious gift of all is love, or that the thing you were looking for was with you all the time.
In the end, Cedar Falls/Rapids is an very lengthy piece of phoned in acting, crude jokes, awful writing, and unmemorable characters. It is boring, tremendously clichéd, and completely unwatchable. The worst part is that it squanders the talent of a hilarious character actor like Reilly, a strong leading lady in Weaver, and a great straight man in Helms. In a single word, I would describe this movie as “completely terrible in every way.” The End.
Everett Steele is a full time partner at Baby Robot Industries, an infrequent writer, and a part time lover. You can harass him via Twitter, at Everettsteele.com, or email him, unless you’re proposing a sequel to either Cedar Rapids or Cedar Falls.