Blu-ray Review: CEDAR RAPIDS - Rarely Elevates Above Mildly Amusing

Cedar Rapids ultimately fails to crackle with the energy of a truly great comedy. That said it does have its moments – enough to keep us engaged until the credits at least and even invoke a few laughs along the way.

I€™ll admit to being vaguely piqued at the prospect of reviewing this movie. The casting certainly appears as a potential recipe for laughs, on paper at least: Ed Helms (The Hangover, US Office) stars as a fumblingly naïve small-town insurance broker and John C. Reilly (Cyrus, Step Brothers) returns, adding himself to the favoured talent list of director Miguel Arteta €“ the two shared the bond once previously, on Arteta€™s second feature The Good Girl (2002). Cedar Rapids follows Tim Lippe (Helms) as he leaves his home town for the very first time. Sent to the picturesque Iowan city of the films€™ namesake, he is charged with the task of representing his company at an industry renowned insurance conference. Rapidly waylaid by a clique of conference regulars - loveable oaf Dean €˜The Deanzie€™ Zeigler (Reilly), bone dry-witted Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and the seductive Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) - they guide him on a journey of internal discovery that passes through all manner of sins before it runs its course. Helms is clearly comfortable in the role of the bright-eyed, love-sick white collar worker and turns a restrained performance admirably, despite the fact that his character doesn€™t exactly pop off the screen. Sure, he€™s likable enough and we never wish him ill, but he€™s rarely given any of the films stand out gags. In short, he€™s the Ying to Reilly€™s raging Yang whose gung-ho honesty and drunken shenanigans as Zeigler support the bulk of the humour. While it€™s not exactly a stretch for Reilly, I can€™t exactly fault his performance either; his delivery for the most part is spot on. Anne Heche provides the majority of the heart as Joan, the sultry soccer mom whose purpose it is to coerce Lippe out of his self-constructed shell. Despite being believable as a quirky, seen-it-all type, I found her immediate attraction to the frankly beige-coloured Lippe to be a mite perplexing. This is a repeated motif throughout: for some unexplained reason, the women in Cedar Rapids all seem to hunger for timid beta males and flock to an unwitting Tim Lippe like he€™s the star of a Lynx commercial. I can tell you from experience that in reality, this is definitely not the case. Cedar Rapids does pepper some decent laughs throughout though, mainly at Zeigler€™s expense but utilizing its secondary players intuitively as well. One of the best gags in the movie actually comes via Ronald Wilkes (Whitlock Jr.) and is thoroughly earned by screenwriting newcomer Phil Johnston. Built on the foundations of an intentionally inelegant T.V reference, the joke is repeated throughout -getting funnier each time- and when its punch-line hits it actually doubles as a satisfying plot device. From the outset, Cedar Rapids prescribes an awkwardly naughty tone €“ Sigourney Weaver features in the supporting cast as Lippe€™s former school teacher cum vaguely inappropriate arms-length lover- which is maintained fairly consistently throughout. Having said that, the plot does darken dramatically across the shift into act three, but even as moral transparency begins to murk, the tone manages to remain for the most part tongue-in-cheek. Cedar Rapids is not a bad film, of that I€™m sure, but nor is it a great one either. It manages to toe the line between crassness and poignancy right up until its third act climax, which unfortunately steps a foot into the former. While it may only serve as a somewhat amusing distraction to most, I can think of much worse gifts to open on my birthday. With its B-level Blu-ray pricing it€™s not a terrible addition to your collection, but won€™t likely be seeing the same level of activity as others on your shelf. The presentation of the Blu-Ray itself is splendid, with rich 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio backing up the English dub and a video transfer that is relatively seamless. While I did notice some noise in some of the deeper colour palettes throughout, it€™s certainly nothing to kick up a stink over. As well as a range of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a gag reel (always a giggle) on offer, we€™re also given access to six deleted scenes and a surprisingly dark mock insurance commercial (with an unexpected appearance from Charlie Sanders €“ one of the leads from MTV€™s new sitcom-horror Death Valley). While not exactly pushing the discs capacity, fans of the main meal are provided with a little extra meat here. This is all wrapped up in a crisp menu montage, rolling some of the films key moments underneath a nifty drop-down menu system that never disrupts the flow. Film €“ 2 ½ /5 Cedar Rapids ultimately fails to crackle with the energy of a truly great comedy. It commits some oversights in logic, and some may find the admirable insurance salesman pill a little hard to swallow. That said it does have its moments €“ enough to keep us engaged until the credits at least and even invoke a few laughs along the way. Presentation €“ 4/5 Looks great in HD and follows that up with a rich sound spec that makes for a satisfying audio/visual experience. The overall package is neat, concise and pretty much achieves exactly what we€™ve come to demand from the enhanced capabilities of Blu-Ray. Extras €“ 2 ½ /5 There isn€™t a massive amount in truth, although what is present is of a consistent quality. But with only a few short featurettes, a gag reel and a handful of deleted scenes, you€™ll churn through the goodies in less than half an hour. Overall €“ 3/5 A decent enough movie, strengthened by pristine presentation on Blu-Ray, Cedar Rapids isn€™t so bad as to offend but rarely manages to elevate itself above anything more than mildly amusing. Cedar Rapids is released on Blu-ray on Monday.
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