'Cedar Rapids' brings the crazy to Midwestern insurance

By Tatiana Craine

What “The Hangover” is to Las Vegas, “Cedar Rapids” is to, well, Cedar Rapids. Ed Helms stars as straight-laced insurance agent Tim Lippe who travels to Iowa for the biggest insurance convention in the Midwest. Vying for the big Two Diamond Award for his company after their previous representative dies from auto-erotic asphyxiation, Tim takes the lead for Brown Star Insurance as their presenter. He tries to stay on the good side of the convention’s chairman, Orin Helgesson (Kurtwood Smith), but gets curtailed when he meets a trio of seasoned vets at the convention-love interest Joan (Anne Heche), good-natured Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and renegade Dean (John C. Reilly). Over the next few days, the four become fast friends by introducing Tim to the finer parts of convention-life in a hotel-boozing, hooking up and raiding a swimming pool late at night. Tim also befriends a young prostitute (Alia Shawkat) and ends up smoking meth at a backwoods party. The film becomes a kind of coming-of-age story for a man nearing middle age who, incidentally, is sleeping with one of his old grade school teachers (Sigourney Weaver). The film thrusts its characters into ridiculous and kitschy situations, but to put it plain and simple-it has heart. Helms’ role, as well as the film’s premise, really does bring to mind 2009’s “The Hangover,” but what makes “Cedar Rapids” different are the very real lives these characters have to go back to after the convention. The days they spend in Cedar Rapids become an escape from the boring and sometimes heart-breaking everyday lives they lead. If you’ve got a free afternoon, take a trip to see “Cedar Rapids.