Small-town insurance representative Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) heads to the big city of Cedar Rapids for a weekend conference that will change his life. Leaving the security of his former high school science teacher/girlfriend (Sigourney Weaver), Lippe meets up with regional insurance badass Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), a straight-laced African-American agent (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and sultry good-time girl Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) and takes his first real steps on the road to becoming a man of the world.
Cedar Rapids director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) knows how to handle outsiders caught in comedic flux and, in Helms, he’s got an emerging performer who gets the laughs without overplaying his hand.
Helms displays an engaging charm and an understanding of the real human drama, even in the face of utter outrageousness that puts him squarely in the camp of comedic actors like Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.
An everyman like Lippe needs someone able to sell the small moments and make us identify with this man who easily could be from an earlier place and time in our history, yet stands before us, here and now, ready to stumble into a hilariously bright future. Grade: B+