Movies: Cedar Rapids

John C. Reilly, Ed Helms, Isiah Washington, Jr.(from left) and Anne Heche tell us about the insurance biz.
Photo: Zade Rosenthal, 20th Century Fox

Tim Lippe (an excellent Ed Helms), whose name rhymes with “dippy,” is the very definition of innocent. Working at Brown Valley Insurance in Brown Valley, Wisconsin, he is propelled by circumstance to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iown – his first time in a plane – to attend an insurance sales convention. Away from his lover, a teacher (Sigourney Weaver) whose class he’d been in when he was 12, he is thrown into a world that is completely foreign. His boss (Stephen Root) has given Lippe explicit marching orders, telling him that he must stay away from Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and must convince the insurance group’s president (Kurtwood Smith) that Brown Valley is deserving of a prestigious award.

Tim comes by his naiveté honestly. He really believes that, for example, insurance men are heroes because, when his father died, the insurance man worked to ensure that Tim and his mother were taken care of. And insurance men help victims of accidents and natural disasters.

But that changes at the convention when he is introduced to a world he’d only heard about – a world of wine, women and, yes, song. He winds up rooming with Dean Ziegler, along with Ronald Wilkes, who is the first black man to whom he’s ever been close.

It is the personality of Tim Lippe that propels the film. He’s such a genuinely nice guy, trusting and honest, that we are interested in what happens. Screenwriter Phil Johnston and director Miguel Arteta seem to let it just happen. Yes, there are stereotypes: the businesspeople at a convention who let go for a few days and, even, the hooker with the heart of gold (Alia Shawkat).

Cedar Rapids takes place in a benign world where bad things may happen to good people but, regardless of what happens, they can deal with it and emerge with their goodness intact.

This is a lovely film that’s well worth seeing.

Cedar Rapids is playing at Rave in Town Square, Regal Village Square and Regal Green Valley Ranch.