Starring: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, Rob Corddry, Stephen Root, Sigourney Weaver
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer(s): Phil Johnston
Cinematography: Chuy Chavek
Original Score: Christophe Beck
Running Time: 87 Mins.
“If you liked The Hangover, you’ll love this” raves the poster for Cedar Rapids, indeed if you have seen any of the trailers or adverts for the film you will likely expect just that, another Hangover-like bawdy boys-own comedy that embraces that most current of trends, bromance. Alas this is just another case of misdirection in an effort to build on that film’s success, given that it stars Ed Helms (Stu from The Hangover) to advertise it as such was really a no-brainer to try to get the audience flocking in droves and have the cash registers ringing. It is a strategy which has failed, badly, across the pond it disappeared without a trace while it will likely follow suit now it has found a release here, maybe the audience is too savvy to fall for marketing ploys (unlikely) or maybe (and more likely) word-of-mouth has put most movie-goers straight, Cedar Rapids really isn’t that funny.
This is not to say that it is a failure, I don’t think that the makers set out to craft a comedy and certainly not a bawdy one though one element does go against this concept and that is John C. Reilly, moving quite some distance away from the character he played in Cyrus, Dean Ziegler is overbearing, obnoxious and loud but obviously a loveable oaf after all is said and done the thing is his mugging comedy jars with the rest of the film and feels although this is a role meant for some other much funnier laugh out loud premise. Around him everyone else plays it (relatively) straight, and not just straight but largely toned down to drama-level performance, no-one show boats and bar a sojourn to a drug fuelled party and a late night swimming pool romp the tone and plotting it low-key, so low key in fact that Cedar Rapids really is more indie drama than comedy.
Sadly it is in this confusion that the whole thing doesn’t gel, Helms proves he can act and Reilly demonstrates he can be very funny (once more), Anne Heche reminds us what a good actress she is and Whitlock Jr. riffs on his role in The Wire (an odd place to find such a running joke) all the more strange given the hugely different audience demographic for The Wire and this. All of which begs the question who is this film for? I quite simply don’t know, and as solidly well acted as it is each character is not much fun (bar Reilly), the direction rather limp and lifeless creating a stagnant mood and a very slow 87 minutes, while the colour saturation makes the proceedings closer in look to a social realist drama!!!
All this and I haven’t even mentioned the cameo appearances by Sigourney Weaver (wasted and bizarre a choice as Helms love interest) and an equally underused Rob Corddry who can be very funny but barely registers, with a plot concerning insurance sales that eventually tries to make a comment on society, and such other heavy themes, by which point you will have been likely bored and/or confounded at how much of a mess the film becomes. Director Arteta’s last film had a similarly mixed take on seemingly foolproof material (he has Ed Helms and John C. Reilly on a weekend getaway for gods sake!) yet in Youth In Revolt at least some of the elements worked, here his best efforts can’t over-ride the simply bungled efforts of a studio reaching for financial success and a writer striving for poignancy in comedy.
Sadly Cedar Rapids isn’t even in the same genre as The Hangover, hard as the poster would want us to believe such a comment, it is instead a strange hybrid of drama and indie comedy that manages to fail on both counts with the only plus point being a very funny (but oddly out-of-place) turn from the ever reliable John C. Reilly.