Cedar Rapids


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Ed Helms plays a naive small-town boy who has never been on a plane and is dating his former 7th-grade teacher. He makes his living selling insurance, but he's not a cutthroat high-pressure salesman. He's an idealist who believes in his product and his profession. He believes that insurance agents are heroes because they help people prepare for disasters, and are the ones we turn to to get us back on our feet in the very worst times of our lives.

When an embarrassing fatal accident (think David Carradine) takes the life of his agency's senior spokesman, it falls upon Ed to go to Cedar Rapids and make a critical presentation at the big annual regional convention. He falls in with a crowd that likes to party, as conventioneers will, and his encounter with the real world makes him more worldly in many ways. His maturity is not without some compromises and the loss of some ideals, but ultimately he figures out the difference between right and wrong and emerges as a stronger person.

Cedar Rapids is a raunchy "slobs vs snobs" comedy, although it is a lot more complicated than the typical film in that genre. It does include the genre's usual one-dimensional antagonist, but the script develops its humor within the context of believable characters and plausible situations, and it carves the hero's triumph out of his own genuine, credible personal development rather than from the unrealistic one-time achievement which usually provides the climax of a slob-snob movie.

Like all films in this genre, Cedar Rapids has an underlying serious point, which goes something like this: the best people are those who care about others. They are simple, direct, humble, sincere, and fun-loving, and are "winners" even when they have small pecs and smaller bank accounts. The effort made by a "slobs vs snobs" author to develop the serious point depends, I suppose, on his or her personal emotional involvement in the story. Sometimes the plot satisfies the genre requirements in a perfunctory manner simply by letting the underdogs get the girls or end up as the unlikely winners of a competition, but this film takes a different path. It spends a lot of time developing the eventual moral superiority of the underdog, ruminating about which ends are really worth pursuing in life, and questioning whether one should cut moral corners, even in pursuit of one of those worthwhile ends.

In fact, the film spends enough time on serious ruminations and soul-searching that it doesn't always find as much time for comedy as I would like. The three main "slobs," played by Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche, are carrying around a lot of emotional baggage that has nothing to do with the "snobs," but is just part of the human condition. There's a lot of existential ennui and loneliness inside of the dick jokes. Imagine if Animal House had been made by Ingmar Bergman, and you'll be getting close to what's going on here.

That last paragraph doesn't make the film sound very appealing, or at least I would not find it so if it had been written by somebody else, and yet I liked the film quite a bit. Cedar Rapids is a good comedy, but not because it is extremely funny. It's a movie with a big heart which also happens to be pretty funny from time to time.

Blu-Ray DVD


3 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
3 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
84 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
70 Metacritic.com (of 100)


6.7 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It grossed $6.6 million, maxxing out at 462 theaters. It never made the top 15 films in the USA.



Other people reported that there was no nudity in the film. That is quite incorrect. Perhaps the Blu-Ray version if different from the theatrical. There's quite a bit of male nudity,

  • a brief butt from John C Reilly shooting a moon
  • a long shower scene featuring the butts of Ed Helms and Kurtwood Smith

Also Anne Heche has a clear, if brief, topless scene.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear.


It is worth a watch. It's not a very funny comedy, and some scenes flop, but it's a thoughtful, heartfelt film in general.