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“Cedar Rapids,” Reviewed

“Cedar Rapids,” Reviewed (photo)

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The talent level in “Cedar Rapids”‘ is all out of proportion to the quality of the material. The screenplay is thoroughly forgettable but just listen to this cast: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Alia Shawkat, and Sigourney Weaver. Their director is Miguel Arteta, who made the supremely squirmy “Chuck & Buck” and last year’s underrated Michael Cera vehicle “Youth in Revolt.” How did so many wonderful actors and a smart filmmaker all wind up attached to such a nothing script? This is clearly a low budget film. They’re not doing it for the paycheck. Do they all share the same agent or something?

Helms stars as Tim Lippe, a naïve insurance salesman from Brown Valley, Wisconsin. After Tim’s firm’s star salesman dies, he’s sent to replace him at an important insurance convention in Cedar Rapids. Tim’s boss BIll (Root) needs him to win the coveted “2 Diamonds Award” for outstanding insurance company, but Tim is totally unprepared for this assignment. He’s never left Brown Valley, much less flown on an airplane, much less been to a big bad city like Cedar Rapids. So he’ll need to bear down. That means focusing on his work and avoiding infamous convention wild man Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) at all costs.

BIll warns Tim to avoid the hard-partying Dean, so naturally a plot contrivance makes them roommates instead. And thank goodness it does because Reilly immediately brightens a heretofore bland movie with his live-wire presence. His Dean is pure irrepressible id, the perfect devil on the shoulder for a guy like Tim, who’s lived his whole life by a code of asceticism you usually only see practiced by clergymen and solitary astronauts on decades-long expeditions to the Planet of the Apes. Arteta also used Reilly to equally good effect in his 2002 film “The Good Girl.” In both cases he plays the role of the character too charming to be despicable. The funniest moment in “Cedar Rapids” isn’t provided by a witty joke or a clever line of dialogue. It’s a look Reilly gives when he’s caught by someone with a trashcan lid on his head. This guy doesn’t just steal the movie; he rips it off and pirates it on the Internet.

“Cedar Rapids”‘ corporate satire isn’t especially sharp, but the mood throughout is consistently warm and likable. Helms makes Tim’s extreme innocence charming (if not especially hilarious) and, just like in “The Hangover,” he remains the sort of nerdy actor audiences enjoy watching get defiled. Anne Heche is the one in charge of most of the defiling, as another conventioneer who pals around with Dean and third roommate Ronald (Whitlock Jr.) and takes a liking to the new kid on the block. Heche’s good too; charming, flirty, and casual. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed her in a movie this much.

The quest for the 2 Diamonds Award bogs “Cedar Rapids” down with way too many plot twists and character reversals. There’s also a really egregious hooker with a heart of gold who’s also wise beyond her years and gets to enunciate the film’s big point (“We’re all just selling…”). The film is at its best at its simplest, when it gets out of its own way and just lets us endure this very tiresome corporate retreat’s bizarre customs and rituals with that core four — Helms, Heche, Whitlock Jr., and especially Reilly. I’m still not entirely sure what these folks saw in “Cedar Rapids.” Maybe it was just an opportunity to work together. In that sense, they made the most of it.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.