Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Smooth sailing on 'Cedar Rapids'

Cedar Rapids

Smooth sailing on 'Cedar Rapids'

There's something very charming about a film that gets it just right. Miguel Arteta's new film ""Cedar Rapids"" gets it all right. It successfully creates characters we can laugh with, as opposed to laugh at. It surrounds its main character with a pitch perfect cast and a fully realized environment. Most importantly, it stays true to itself in classic good-hearted Midwestern spirit. Oh yeah, and it's hilarious.

Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is our bright-eyed bushytailed adventurer. He's been living in Brown Valley, Wis. his whole life and that's pretty much all there is to him. He sells insurance and knows he's ""one of the good guys."" But of course, every story needs a call to action, and Tim gets his when he's called up to the big leagues in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a insurance convention. Thought-provoking, right? While it might sound a little dull I promise you the story gets a little bit more interesting. Slowly but surely the film picks up speed. Pretty soon you've got the plot of ""The Hangover,"" but instead of Vegas you've got a small family motel. 

There's a lot of heart stuffed into this 90-minute film, and most of it has to be credited to the writer, UW-Madison graduate Phil Johnston. There's a lot of potential behind this film's story, but if you don't know the Midwest you simply can't pull it off. The caricatures Johnston creates are a bit over-the-top but it's acceptable because they've got a strong backbone of truth to them. Besides possibly the Coen brothers, I can't imagine any other writer in Hollywood being able to pull-off this script like Johnston did.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox

Another gift Johnston brings to the film is a strong sense of story, something most comedies aren't fortunate enough to have these days. Throwing together a bunch of successful bits is enough to get a laugh from the audience the first time, but if you want to become a comedy classic you've also got to take the audience somewhere satisfying. So many comedies leave a bad taste in your mouth because they can't pull together a coherent ending. The combined efforts of the cast and crew really come together in the end of this film to make itself stand out amongst the mediocrity of the Hollywood spring season. 

Along with great writing, it takes a strong sense of direction to not screw up a film like this. Arteta has been churning out some really good stuff over the last decade. He's directed ""The Good Girl,"" ""Youth in Revolt"" and one very good episode of ""Freaks and Geeks"" (though aren't they're all good?). Depending on how this film does at the box office, I think this could be his breakout film. He has worked with several giant comedy stars already and now he can add Helms and John C. Reilly to his contact list. Don't be surprised if in the near future he's one of the main smaller comedic parties competing with the humor conglomerations of Judd Apatow, Adam McKay and yes, Tyler Perry.

This film may also be a breakout piece of work for Helms, because it proves he can be a leading man. Obviously he's proven himself as a great supporting character both in television shows like ""The Office"" and films like ""The Hangover,"" but this is his first top billed performance. 

The poster for this film made me fear the worst. It's Helms standing around with eight suitcases and a neck pillow with a big goofy smile on his face. Luckily, his performance has a few more layers than the posters suggests. 

Strong supporting performances in comedies are fairly common but that doesn't mean we should take these performances for granted. Reilly and Anne Heche are both doing tremendous work here. When introduced, they're extremely predictable and almost annoying. In the second act, however, Johnston's script gives both characters completely new dimensions, as opposed to the cookie-cutter character developments that you're used to. 

I've talked a lot about this film's strong sense of story and consistent tone, but it's not ""that"" kind of movie. This film's jokes are easy, and you will laugh out loud. To spoil any of the shenanigans or repeating gags here would just be wrong. It's truly a good time and an essential viewing for anyone who's ever loved or laughed at the Midwest.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Cardinal