At the Movies: Cedar Rapids

As we all know, I love the works of William Shakespeare.

Wait. That’s not right. It’s my wife who loves Shakespeare. So I was quite excited to discover that this week there was a film opening that surely she would love to see.

“Would you like to go with me to see “Gnomeo & Juliet?”

“What?”

“Gnomeo & Juliet. It’s The Bard’s classic love story as seen through the eyes of garden gnomes.”

“Are you serious?”

“Deadly.”

“And why do you think I would want to see this?”

“It’s Shakespeare. With garden gnomes.”

“There are no garden gnomes in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I’m assuming this is some kind of demented play on ‘Romeo and Juliet.'”

“It has music by Elton John.”

“You mean they’ve desecrated the memory of William Shakespeare and the Rocket Man?”

“I’m sure it’s funny.”

“It’s a tragedy! There’s nothing funny about ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Have you even read it?”

“It’s in 3D!”

“Go back downstairs to your cave.”

“Fine. Will you at least go with me to see ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never?'”

“Go downstairs. NOW.”

And that’s why you won’t be reading any reviews around here for “Gnomeo & Juliet” or “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.” I almost went to the “Gnomeo” screening alone, but when I got up Saturday morning it was snowing and I didn’t feel like shoveling the driveway so I could drive all the way to Gravois Bluffs. If it had been Pixar, I might have done it.

To be honest, of all the movies that opened today the only one I was slightly interested in was “The Eagle,” and I missed that screening due to a sick son. I suppose the big release of the week — unless you’re a Justin Bieber fan — is the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy “Just Go With It.” They finally got around to scheduling a screening for it last night (a night-before-opening screening scheduled a few days in advance is never a good sign) but I opted to go see “The Adjustment Bureau” instead. I figure the odds of Jennifer Aniston making a good comedy are astronomical while Matt Damon rarely disappoints.

Which brings us, at long last, to “Cedar Rapids,” a mildly amusing comedy starring Ed Helms — which probably explains why it’s only mildly amusing.

[NOTE: I’ve just been informed that “Cedar Rapids” isn’t opening today, but next Friday. So, feel free to come back next week and read the rest, or go ahead and jump the gun. It’s kinda pointless to pull it off at this late date.]

Helms — best known for playing fifth fiddle on “The Office” and third fiddle in “The Hangover” — steps up to the leading role as insurance salesman Tim Lippe. Nice and naive, Tim has never left the small town where he’s lived his whole life.

When his agency’s top salesman is found dead, Tim is given the task of representing the company at the annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids. He’s given explicit instructions from his boss (Stephen Root) to stay away from rival salesman Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), but as fate would have it they wind up hotel roommates with a third salesman, Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.).

Ronald is quiet but Dean is loud and crude. Adding some sex appeal to the boys’ club is saleswoman Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche).

What follows is your routine Dumb Hick in the Big City story. Tim doesn’t drink or do drugs or have random sex (he has a girlfriend back home played by Sigourney Weaver.) but by the end of the weekend he’s done all that and more. But when his hijinks threaten his job, the gang must come together in a highly implausible manner to save the day.

“Cedar Rapids” is a sometimes crude but generally genial comedy. There are no big laughs here — this isn’t “The Hangover.” Helms is OK in his first starring role but Reilly steals the show — and this is pretty much slumming compared to his usual work.

Did it work for me? “Cedar Rapids” is harmless, lightweight stuff. I wouldn’t pay money to see it and I wouldn’t bother watching it again if I passed it on TV while channel surfing.

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