Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cedar Rapids: Super Awesome Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
In Cedar Rapidsa na├»ve small-town Midwesterner (Helms) is sent to represent his company at a regional insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his mind is blown by the “big city” and he finds himself in the midst of the most unexpected shenanigans.  The movie features an all-star cast including Ed Helms (The Hangover), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), Anne Heche (TV’s Hung), and Academy Award® nominee and Golden Globe® winner Sigourney Weaver (Avatar). 

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Ed Helms stars as Tim Lippy, a small town insurance salesman who has been so insulated in his both his life and his town that he really has no clue how cut off from the world he is.  He's very good at his job at BrownStar Insurance where his customers appreciate his honesty and his integrity which is rare in his type of business.  Tim has just started his first sexual relationship which should expand his life experience but we soon discover that the woman he's with is his former middle school teacher Marcy Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver) who recently got divorced.  Tim is so deluded yet serious about her he tries to give her a promise ring for marriage which doesn't go as planned for him.

His professional life seems to be in a rut as well with the office superstar Roger (Thomas Lennon) stealing all of the glory and acclaim until Roger accidentally dies from auto-erotic asphyxiation. It's another blow to Tim who had worshiped Roger especially since he had won the company it's "Two Diamond Award" from the ASMI Insurance Broker Convention for three years running.  With Roger out of the picture, the company owner Bill Krogstad (Stephen Root) has no choice but to send Tim in his place to the convention with a warning to stay away from fellow insurance agent Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly).

And so begins the process of Tim's stepping into a much larger world as he takes his first airplane flight and arrives at  Cedar Rapids, Iowa which is the biggest city he's ever been to.  He soon discovers that he will be sharing a room with two other agents due to overbooking.  The first one that he meets is a straight talking man named Ronald Wilkes who's devoted his life to his insurance agency and never takes a vacation.  It's a glimpse into Tim's future although he doesn't realize it yet.  Inevitably, the other person sharing the room with him is the very Dean Ziegler he was warned to avoid.  Ziegler proves to be an lovably obnoxious blowhard who takes great joy in making up nicknames for others and making them party with him.  He's such a force of nature that Tim and Ronald have little choice but to join him in his shenanigans.

Another willing participant in their little group of revelers, is Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) who looks a the convention as a vacation away from her life.  She is married and has a couple of kids and she is so overwhelmed by her life that every year she lives it up at this convention.  Despite being in Iowa, Joan shares the Las Vegas philosophy that what happens in Cedar Springs, stays in Cedar Springs and starts flirting with Tim shamelessly.  For Tim, these new experiences start to overwhelm him and it starts a series of events that is completely out of character for him.  To win the coveted "Two Diamond Award" he will have to resort to bribery from the outwardly religious and proper Orin Helgenssen (Kurtwood Smith). Eventually, he will need to decide what's important to him and what he's willing to do to achieve it.  Along the way he will discover who his true friends are and learn enough life lessons that he can take control of his own life.

The strength of this movie is the cast which does an incredible job.  Each role seems tailor made for each of the actors especially with Ed Helms playing his usual sincere and goofy man child and John C. Reilly playing the crass lovable loser role that he excels at.  Anne Heche also does a nice job as a woman looking for a good time, as does Isiah Whitlock Jr. who straight arrow Ronald provides a lot of laughs.  As if that wasn't enough, the movie's guest stars are equally good in their smaller roles.  How could you go wrong with Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Lennon, and Rob Corddry?  Although the script was fairly predicatable, sometimes that's ok when you have performers of this caliber.  

Video  (4 out of 5 stars)
The movie was shot digitally but it could easily be mistaken for film.  This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer has a natural film-like look to it which was surprising.  The film has nice warm colors and a sharpness that is still present even in poorly lit scenes which is usually filled with noise when shot with a digital camera.  There's a lot of nice clarity and the black levels are excellent as well.  Flesh tones aren't as consistent as I would have liked but overall this is a very nice image and without any major issues.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The films DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is like most comedies, a dialogue driven mix that utilizes mainly the front channel only.  Dialogue is crystal clear and easily understood but don't expect much action for your rear speakers except for Christophe Beck's score.  I did like how the mix sounded real as if you were at the convention or the bar as it was replicated well.  That light ambiance appears on occasion and there's a few scenes where the sound-field opens up to offer more, but this is mostly a front speaker mix.  

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
There's a decent selection of extras provided especially on the Blu-ray which has more than the DVD edition. I liked the deleted scenes especially the Fire Extinguisher Fight and the Cabin Extras which could have easily been included in the movie.  Everything but the Fox Channel featurettes and the BD-Live extra are in HD.

Deleted Scenes
Dinner With Macy
Song Dedication
Cart Ride
Fire Extinguisher Fight
Goodbye to Bree
Cabin Extras
Gag Reel
Mike O'Malley - Urban Clogger - A short look at O"Malley's efforts to learn how to clog dance.
Tweaking in the USA - A behind the scenes look at the filming of the drug party scene  with some comments from Alia Shawkat and Rob
Wedding Belles - Crashing a Lesbian Wedding - A look at the filming of the lesbian wedding and the preparations to do so.  
Top Notch Commercial - A deliberately bad commercial for Tim's Top Notch Insurance company.

CEDAR RAPIDS Blu-ray Disc Features:
All of the DVD features, plus
Convention Connection - A collection of interviews with all of the main actors who talk about their character and how they approached it.
Tim Lippe - Ed Helms
Ronald Wilkes - Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Joan Ostrowski-Fox - Anne Heche
Bill Krogstad - Stephen Root
Orin Helgesson - Kurtwood Smith
Bree - Alia Shawkat
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Direct Effect with  Miguel Arteta - The director talks about his directing philosophy and what attracted him 
to the project.  He also talks about the message he tried to send.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Writer's Draft with Phil Johnston - The screenwriter talks about writing the movie for Ed Helms and the 
genesis of the script and why he wrote it.
Exclusive: Ed Helms Mad Chopper Skills - A look behind the scenes as Helms flies the helicopter 
between takes.
Digital Copy

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)
This is a funny and quirky movie that works thanks to the amazing talents of the actors involved in this and the fantastic chemistry they have together.  You can tell how much fun they had making this movie and that joy infects the whole movie which helps you overlook the film's small flaws.  I enjoyed my time with these characters and wouldn't mind going to another convention with them down the road.

Order your copy today! 

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