The Set of 400: #290 – My Favorite Insurance Convention

Today! Because I do a pretty convincing Omar from the HBO program, The Wire – 

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Starring Ed Helms (x2), John C. Reilly (x3), Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver (x3), Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root (x2), Alia Shawkat, Kurtwood Smith, Thomas Lennon (x3), Rob Corddry, Mike O’Malley, Mike Birbiglia

A movie that snuck in and out of theaters with little fanfare, Cedar Rapids is a terrific character-driven comedy about a rollicking business trip to Iowa as the backdrop to personal and professional crossroads. Director Arteta (of Chuck & Buck fame) compiled a fantastic cast of comedy greats, working from a script by Phil Johnston, who would go on to write a pair of tremendous animated films – Wreck it Ralph and Zootopia. 

But yeah, this little indie – filmed through some tax breaks, I assume, not in Cedar Rapids, but the equally uncinematic Ann Arbor, Michigan (sorry, Wolverines fans) – didn’t crack $7 million total at the box office, and doesn’t seem to have a second life on cable, yet, so far as I can tell. Maybe there is a little too much adult melancholy surrounding the wilder sequences in the film – massive drug parties, semi-nude hotel shenanigans – so that it crossed up the marketers and the audiences alike. It’s hard to say the demographic this is aimed at, exactly, but probably not the age group who would really enjoy this type of movie – high-brow-ish masquerading as low-brow-ish. Medium brow? Is that a filmic delineation?

Maeby Funke straddles this line particularly well herein

The cast makes great work of the terrific screenplay, with the always wonderful John C. Reilly leading the madder end of the group, balanced by the solidly hilarious work of Isiah Whitlock Jr., who speaks the leading quote of this post by way of an in-joke with Wire fans, as Whitlock famously portrayed Senator Clay Davis (“Sheeeeeeee-it”) on the HBO classic. But it shouldn’t be praised simply on the supporting assemblage – Ed Helms is perfect as the nerdy, confused insurance man at the center of the film. The whole film bears a strong resemblance to many independent, workplace-centric comedies of the past two decades, but builds in a loony streak of mayhem that pushes the movie out of the more familiar doldrums of the genre.

The National Board of Review did name Cedar Rapids one of the Top Ten Indies of 2011, and Reilly nabbed a Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor too, so despite being released in the spring and making zero impact money-wise, recognition was there somewhat for this movie at the time. So let’s stick with Reilly’s Dean Ziegler and hand out a Best Swimming Pool Garbage Can Diving Helmet award, for something that doesn’t make its way into movies too often.

Classic Ziegler

Reilly also leads a trio of Three-Timers entering the club, after his work in #372 Walk Hard and #368 Anger Management, alongside Sigourney Weaver (#352 Be Kind Rewind and #292 Cabin in the Woods) and Thomas Lennon (#377 I Love You, Man and #347 Memento). In addition, two new Two-Timers! Ed Helms previously made the list in Walk Hard, and Stephen Root showed up over a hundred movies ago, with a small role in #398 Ghost! Huh!

Coming tomorrow! Embrace the probability of your imminent death –

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