Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche
Directed by Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt)
Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use
Appropriate for ages 17+
Ed Helms is just a plain, honest insurance salesman from a small midwestern town who is sent to represent his company at an insurance convention in the metropolis of Cedar Rapids, IA. Not knowing a soul there, he relies on three veteran salespeople to guide him through the meeting, and eventually lead him down a comically dark journey full of sex, drugs and corruption.
Going into this film I was baffled by the fact that this was a small indie from Fox Searchlight. After all, it has a great ensemble of comic actors and a tried and true formula of the debaucherous night out. I thought before going in that this being an indie with a limited release is a bad thing, and my opinion turned out correct.
The subject matter is right up the alley for the adult comedy audience, but the look and feel scream low-budget filmmaking with a decent cast. Also, the script seems like it was put together with only the set pieces in mind, almost like the writer thought up some hilarious ideas after going to an insurance meeting, but didn’t know how to tie them together with a working narrative. The MacGuffin here is the two-diamond award which supposedly every insurance company desires. But it seems only Helms has his eyes on it, because the other agents don’t even compete and the way it is won is amateurish. Also, the cost for him earning the award only works on an emotional level. So much could have been done with the script to juice it up and force the actions of the characters to make sense, but because the subplot wasn’t thought out properly, it only serves as a distraction from the hi-jinx.
The good thing about the movie is that Helms, Reilly, and Heche do an excellent job with what they are given and they make the comedy work. I’ve been to too many of these types of meetings, and the drunken behavior shown is fairly accurate and pretty funny. Still, a comedy like this could have and should have been better than what ended up on screen. C+