Tim has never left his small hometown. He’s never stayed at a hotel. And he’s never experienced anything like Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sent to represent his company at the annual insurance convention, Tim is soon distracted by three convention veterans who will show him the ropes and push his boundaries.
This comedy is designed to be as comforting as a warm blanket – the laughs come reliably and often, and there is an amiable tone to the proceedings that encourages you to like Tim and his optimistic take on the world. The conservative (with a small ‘c’) outlook of a provincial person is poked fun at in a gentle, liberal-Hollywood manner – though Tim is conventional in a slightly small-minded way, his prejudices melt away once he accepts the open-mindedness of his new friends. I daresay Americans who favour a Tea-Party approach to life will dislike the unflattering portrayal of Tim’s fallen idols and our hero’s change of perspective, whilst social liberals will find it cheering to see such an easy conversion to their team. I was left pondering who the film is really for – the modest-living people it ostensibly celebrates, or savvier metropolites who laugh at their tameness?
Cedar Rapids is, incidentally, a real city in Iowa. Funny as the film is to me – a young city-dwelling Brit – I’m sure it’s even funnier to more local filmgoers. Or at the very least, more pertinent. But though the joke of the location (the jokecation? No, maybe not…) necessarily depreciates over distance, Cedar Rapids is a good comedy. It may not receive much hard-hitting critical kudos – it lacks the dark pessimism that critics relish in their funnies, c.f. Sideways – but it’s a cheering piece of cinema about the innate goodness in ordinary people. Dorks, straying wives, drunks and hookers all get treated with the same essential empathy, and it’s a pleasure to watch them all muddle along together.