Wednesday, 4 May 2011

REVIEW: Cedar Rapids

The Insurance Man would be a great name for a scooby-doo villain.

I think if Miguel Arteta's previous film, the underrated and under-seen 'Youth In Revolt', had come out say four years before it did, it might have been the teen film of choice for the last decade. Instead it arrived in the midst of a maelstrom of a Michael Cera backlash, and at a time when the 'sensitive/geeky boy wins hot girl who may as well be a trophy' well had been run dry. It came at a time when we were fucking sick of that subject matter, so it didn't matter that it was probably the best of them. I liked it mostly because it acknowledged how fucked up the whole 'dream girl' thing is, whereas many films that aspired to the same quality still bought into the adolescent fantasy unawares (cough Scott Pilgrim, cough).

Arteta seemed to handle the smart, weird humor well in that film, so I was actually looking forward to his follow-up, even if the trailers made it look like a pretty tired Apatow-esque comedy about men being children. Again. But I was pleased to find the film a little lighter, a little smarter and certainly sadder then I expected. Yes it is about insurance salesman acting crazy at a company retreat, but there's also a real sense they do what they do because they feel trapped by their lives, and thus the shenanigans that goes down has a more poignant quality then these kinds of films tend to have. It also put together a strong cast, full of interesting choices and people who don't work nearly enough. Ed Helms and John C Reilly are the known quantities here, and both deliver very strong performances. Helms particularly, showing that if there's any justice he'll be around for a while. Then there's the likes of Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith and Alia Shawkat, all of whom would be seen on lists detailing actors that don't work nearly enough. I particularly enjoyed Heche here. She's a polarizing actress, perhaps because she seems to be the teeniest bit crazy in real life, but she's the heart of the movie.

It's not perfect, a lot of what you get here you've seen before in various ' one crazy night' type films, but like I said, what made it work was that it seemed to have a genuine interest in its characters and where they came from, rather then just viewing them as objects of ridicule. The best comedies seem to do this, they don't have a heart like this one necessarily, but they have to be interested, invested. Anyway this is a movie I came out liking a lot more then I expected, it's funny, low-key well acted comedy, and the kind that's in way too short a supply. If nothing else, it's more evidence as to Sigourney Weaver missing her calling as a comedian.

Rating: 7/10

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