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Cedar Rapids

a film by Miguel Arteta

What is brown and sticky? A stick! About ten years ago, this joke was awarded the top honour in an internet poll of the worst jokes ever. Upon reading this particular joke, my wife and I awarded it our personal top honour as our new favourit joke ever. So lo and behold, imagine my delight (and possible indignation) at hearing Ed Helms repeat this joke during the end credits of Cedar Rapids. Yet it can work as the perfect metaphor for the movie itself. The joke is silly and quite stupid, as is Cedar Rapids, but at the same both the joke and the movie are quite funny as well. I suppose a greater rave could not have been uttered.

Seriously though, Cedar Rapids, directed by Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) and starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche, is a well-made comedy full of really stupid things - but purposely so. It never falls into that frat boy humour so prevalent in mainstream comedies of today - or at least rarely falls into such - but then again, it never gets as sophisticated as it probably could have and should have. Helms is playing basically the same kind of character he played in The Hangover (though perhaps a bit more nerdy and naive) but it is a role that suits the comic actor to a tee, and in doing so, works to make the comedy better than it might otherwise be.

Charming in many ways, as well as superficially acerbic (the filmmakers probably think they are being more subversive than they actually end up being) the film revolves around an insurance convention (in that grand titular city) that, of course, goes awry in as many ways as possible. Including in-jokes (a cast member of The Wire, playing against type, makes several references to the show) and candy-coated sex jokes (a corn-fed prostitute who is befriended by Helms' insurance salesman, an inevitable rendezvous between Helms' and the sweetly sexy Heche, gay innuendo aplenty, Reilly's squeezed teets etc) Arteta's film never hits as hard as some of his previous movies, but it does supply some rather funny moments throughout, up to and including the favourite joke of my wife and I. [03/16/11]

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