Friday March 25th 2011
Comedy movies are in a state of disrepair. Bogged down by endlessly derivative stories, ‘stars’ way past their prime and a default mean-spiritedness that’s long ceased to make any kind of point at all, today’s comedies have become so identikit that audiences are starting to haemorrhage cash at anything that even slightly subverts the formula, even if it’s essentially a bit shit.
On these terms, Cedar Rapids is something of a relief. It’s got the derivative story on lock (strait-laced man goes wild on business trip) but its stars, while hardly bright young things, feel surprisingly fresh. Ed Helms proves a natural leading man (although they could have replaced him with Mark Steel at any point in the movie and I wouldn’t have noticed), Anne Heche and The Wire‘s Isiah Whitlock Jr. finally get well-deserved comic roles, and John C. Reilly’s ‘drunk idiot’ performance sits comfortably in the better half of his ‘drunk idiot’ performances.
Still, I know there’s only one thing you really want to know:
AS FUNNY AS IT WAS IN THE TRAILER?
The answer is of course: yes, it’s still an insult to humanity. Apparently the Omar references were written in before Whitlock’s casting, but it’s not hard to picture the producers’ self-satisfied grins when they first thought of ‘going meta’ with it. Anyway, he never says ‘Sheeeeeeeeit’ so be grateful for small mercies, I guess.
Unfortunately, Cedar Rapids won’t be rescuing Hollywood from a decade of increasingly insulting Hangover rip-offs: it’s far too forgettable for that. But with April offering you a comedy choice between this, Arthur and Your Highness, at least it’s a step in the right direction.