Directed by Miguel Arteta
Though he's introduced having headboard-banging sex with a former teacher (Sigourney Weaver), Ed Helms's Tim Lippe (pronounced "lippy") is like a virgin. In his mid-thirties, he's never left his small Wisconsin hometown, where he sells insurance for the agency BrownStar to clients grateful for his commitment and honesty. The annual ASMI insurance convention in Cedar Rapids is coming up, but the obvious choice to represent BrownStar there is their hotshot salesman Roger (Thomas Lennon), who repeatedly earns coveted "two diamonds" ratings. When Roger abruptly dies of autoerotic asphyxiation (the movie's first instance of corner-cutting crudeness), Tim is asked to attend the convention to restore BrownStar's Christian wholesomeness, and get those two diamonds.
It's another comedy about a grown man with a lot of growing up to do; Helms even dresses like Steve Carell's 40-year-old version. Set in the eccentric hothouse of an insurance convention, it allows for self-contained world yuks along the lines of Role Models (LARPing) and The Goods (used car selling). At the convention, Tim rooms with nerdy Ronald (Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.), who always follows his coined abbreviations, like "NTS", with their meaning ("not too shabby"). They are joined by the sweaty, party-the-pain-away Dean (John C. Reilly), whom Tim was specifically warned by a boss to avoid. There's also the married but DTF Joan, who isn't given many laugh lines but is played credibly by Anne Heche.
Tim soon learns that these colleagues use the Cedar Rapids convention as an annual escape from unsatisfying lives, and the "Holidome"-style Royal Cedar Suite, with its presentation rooms and large heated pool, as their Midwestern getaway palace. Inevitably, the prissy Tim learns to let loose, slamming cream sherries and bedding Joan, both treated in the movie as necessary steps toward self-realization. In a felt, conscious effort to darken Tim's journey, first-time screenwriter Phil Johnston also has him hitting a meth pipe, making out with a dubiously aged prostitute (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat), and brawling violently with an obligatory Rob Corddry.
The best moments are the quiet exchanges of mutual suffering between Helms and Reilly, acknowledged in glances between the crass dialogue. Ronald twice mentioning his enthusiasm for The Wire might be the worst (lol—Whitlock Jr. played Senator Clay "Sheeeit" Davis on the show), though a confusingly choreographed, supposedly madcap scavenger hunt also ranks. Admittedly working from less surefire material, director Arteta still falls short of his previous feature, the funny and touching Youth in Revolt, which was happier to mock its feckless protagonist. This isn't the "adult" update, because Tim Lippe is only a boy in a man's suit. And his weekend discovery of self, which doesn't take him beyond the hotel, a park, and one drug party, is an unconvincing voyage.
Opens February 11