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Thursday, March 17, 2011 07:14 pm

Cedar Rapids worth visiting

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The ghost of Frank Capra looms large over Miguel Arteta’s Cedar Rapids and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ed Helms (The Hangover) stars as Tim Lippe, an insurance salesman from Wisconsin who’s sent to the big city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a convention to save the company he works for by getting the coveted two diamond rating awarded to his firm. That’s quite a responsibility for a fella’ who takes his first airplane ride to get there.

Though he’s in over his head, Tim soon makes some friends who show him the ropes. Joan’s (Anne Heche), a working mom who lets her freak flag fly at this annual event, and blowhard rival Dean (John C. Reilly) may have a filthy mouth and obnoxious personality but really he’s all bark and no bite. That they’re eventually affected by Tim’s sweet outlook comes as no surprise as he shows great moral fortitude.

What is a bit of a revelation is Helms, who successfully walks a performance tightrope here, delivering laughs by enthusiastically playing up Tim’s naiveté. The character goes through a crisis of conscience when he finds out just what he has to do to get the award he seeks. Helms plays it all straight, never reducing the character to a caricature or a buffoon. While his actions may be laughable, the actor makes sure we’re never laughing at Tim. He never takes himself too seriously and in reminding us that we should do the same, the film and Helms hit an unassuming home run.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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