Courtesy of ZADE ROSENTHAL
Scene Says: Just rewatch ‘The Hangover’
Ed Helms is a funny guy. Fans of “The Office” know him as the pompous and lovable Andy Bernard, and anyone who’s seen “The Hangover” is familiar with his hilarious turn as Dr. Stu, the dentist who marries a stripper and pulls out his own tooth. The new comedy “Cedar Rapids” finally provides Helms the chance to step out of the ensemble cast mode and into the role of leading man. Sadly, Helms is unable to bring redemption to the unfunny “Rapids.”
The movie’s premise is a weak mishmash of other comedy plots, taking a clueless, good-natured protagonist modeled off of Steve Carrell in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and coupling it with “Hangover”-style hijinks, with a double dose of Farrelly Brothers gross-out humor.
Helms plays Tim Lippe, a clueless insurance agent whose life is consumed with selling insurance to his loyal clients, taking care of his quaint little house and sleeping with his former seventh-grade teacher, played by Susan Sarandon. It really makes one wonder how much the “Rapids” production people had to pay an accomplished actress of her standing for her to willingly appear in such a flop.
Lippe, who has never traveled outside of his small Wisconsin town, is dispatched to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an insurance agency conference and the movie takes every single possible opportunity to lampoon Lippe’s Midwestern naiveté.
The movie also introduces John C. Reilly as Lippe’s hard-drinking, vulgar roommate, presumably to bring some comedic heat to the film. Instead, the viewer is forced to sit through a seemingly endless string of Reilly’s testicle euphemisms and excrement jokes.
Executing filthy jokes isn’t an easy feat for a comedy, and the brand of potty humor in “Rapids” falls far below the bar set by lewd mastermind Judd Apatow.
Even Lippe is a poorly-written version of the man-child archetype seen so often in movies today — instead of schlumpy and vulgar, he’s clueless and ultimately dull. Helms, who has always shone in his previous ensemble roles, tries his best to bring nuance and charm to the boring character of Tim Lippe, but his amiable performance isn’t enough to overcome the movie’s lackluster premise and horrible script.
The movie’s convoluted plot is all over the place, and never really finds a moral center. Is it a movie about opening one’s horizons to new experiences or is it about staying true to one’s character? It’s a difficult feat for a movie with such an unambitious, meandering plot to never fully resolve itself, but “Rapids” manages to do so. “Cedar Rapids” is the cinematic equivalent of the unglamorous hotel that serves as the movie’s setting: dull, seedy, and so mind-numbingly awful that you can’t wait to leave.