“Cedar Rapids” – 2011. Dir. Miguel Arteta


 

With Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Stephen Root with Kurtwood Smith and Sigourney Weaver

Produced by Alexander Payne

“You look like R2-D2”

“Beep…boop…beep.”

I haven’t been on here for a while. But I’m back in black. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again – remember when John C. Reilly was a good actor? Well in the small Alexander Payne/John Hughes feeling comedy – Reilly is excellent.

Ed Helms plays a hybrid of Andy from “The Office” and Stu from “The Hangover” – he basically plays the same square character that he always has. He’s fallen into a typecast, but it’s a typecast that he thrives on. He is Tim Lippe, a small town insurance agent who has just been thrown into a conference in Cedar Rapids. His boss (Stephen Root) warns him to steer clear of Dean Zeigler (John C. Reilly). As you can imagine, it doesn’t.

Basically the film takes Tim from his suburban, square and boring life to “the time of his life” at Cedar Rapids. While the film is a vehicle for Helms, the film belongs to Reilly – and the film suffers remarkably when Reilly isn’t on camera (especially after we’re first introduced to him).

To me, “Cedar Rapids” is much like “Hangover” in the way that it feels like it could have been a comedy vehicle for Bill Murray and Steve Martin, or Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. By saying John C. Reilly does his best Bill Murray impression isn’t giving enough credit to Reilly. But let’s just say, the role of Dean “Deanzee” Ziegler is a role that was made for Bill Murray (Deanzee is much like Big Ern), and John C. Reilly does an amazing job with the role.

Anne Heche is a nice addition to the film, she does a fine job. For once I actually enjoy watching Sigourney Weaver again. She plays Tim’s grade school teacher who he is now having a relationship with. And Isiah Whitlock, Jr. plays the “white” black guy (ala Cleveland) who references HBO’s “The Wire” twice – which Whitlock was on for about twenty five episodes.

There isn’t a lot to say about this film. It’s funny, takes itself a little too serious at times, but lags when the camera isn’t on Reilly. But I think you’ll find this to be an enjoyable little comedy even though this film feels like it could have been Alexander Payne’s student film.

Rating: 7/10

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“The Hangover” – 2009. Dir. Todd Phillips


With Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifiankakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Jeffery Tambor, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson.

“He wasn’t a bellhop, he was a bartender – and she was wasted. And if you must know; he didn’t even cum inside her.”

“And you believe that?”

“Yeah – I do. She’s grossed out by semen.”

I think we’ve either all seen this film, or we know a lot about it. Four friends go to Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up the next morning and the groom Doug (Justin Bartha) is missing. The friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifiankakis) can’t remember a thing from the night before and they go in search for Doug, to get him back for the wedding.

Todd Phillips creates a smart film with a wickedly fun script and excellent chemistry between Galifiankakis, Helms and Cooper. I think the best part about the film is the fact that we don’t actually see the night of the bachelor party – we just see the beginning and the aftermath and we are as clueless as the people involved.

The film starts out incredibly funny, but once the film hits the hour marker and Ken Jeong pops naked out of the trunk of their car- the film begins to lose me. It’s not that the film isn’t funny, it’s just that it becomes outlandish for the sake of becoming outlandish. I just found Ken Jeong’s character not funny and really obnoxious, almost to the point where I would lose interest and get bored. I just don’t think stuff like that is funny anymore – the over caricature of stereotypes. It’s like the white guy acting like a black guy that we’ve seen so many times…shit gets old.

One thing that I would really like to point out was how Todd Phillips showed a lot of homage to Martin Scorsese. The scene when Stu first wakes up the next day, and gets up – there is a small shot of a still dolly where Stu is walking around the apartment which is very reminiscent of Harvey Keitel’s drunken stooper in “Mean Streets” and then of course when Ken Jeong is wearing his sunglasses and we see the silver Mercedes in the reflection of his sunglasses – ala “Casino”.

I do think Phillips is a very good director and for as much as I like “Old School”, I think that “The Hangover” is his best film. I don’t think it’s easy to make a good comedy – most comedies of my generation are wretchedly awful that is a crowd pleaser, but Phillips is able to make a good movie that is a dark and pretty twisted comedy.

The edginess of Alan must have been a gamble, because people were either going think he was hysterical or very offensive. Think about the play on Alan being a pedophile, and then later in the film Alan is the one who is carrying the baby around, and having the baby mimic jacking his little “weenis”. Look I thought that was awesome, but I’m sure there were some who didn’t.

I’m also glad Phillips chooses to go with a new generation of actors. The whole Wilson brothers, Will Farrell, John C. Reilly, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller class is really starting to wear out. It was like they were trying to replace the original group of excellent comedic actors of Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd who are in fact – unreplacable. But I do feel that if “The Hangover” were made in the 1980’s – those actors would have played the parts perfectly. Steve Martin/Eugene Levy would have been a perfect Stu, while Chevy Chase/Bill Murray could have been Phil, John Belushi as Alan, and maybe even Dan Aykroyd as Doug.

The film really does succeed with Phillips’ direction, a very witty and clever script and excellent, excellent chemistry with the three leads. And of course – Mike Tyson’s cameo was HILARIOUS! Not only air drumming to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, but his sucker punching of Alan was just as funny. But the third act of the film really starts to drag, and doesn’t live up to the first act. What saves this film is it has such a high replay value. I’m just very happy that Phillips didn’t have Will Farrell make a cameo in the film, which would have tainted it like “Wedding Crashers” was tainted.

I watched this film on Blu Ray for the first time last night and it has a very high quality transfer and a special feature on the DVD was a Gag Reel that was one of the best I’ve seen. There is an excellent improve/deleted scene of Alan and Stu making fun of one another with quick and witty one liners. It is hysterical!

Rating: 7.5/10