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Originally published Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'Cedar Rapids': Nothing first class about this business-trip comedy

A review of "Cedar Rapids" — yet another comedy that's trying too hard to sell something past its date. Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr. star.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'Cedar Rapids,' with Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Directed by Miguel Arteta, from a screenplay by Phil Johnston. 87 minutes. Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use. Several theaters.

There's something about Miguel Arteta's "Cedar Rapids" that makes you feel as if you've already seen it, and in some ways you have — it's yet another comedy that's trying too hard to sell something past its date. Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a proud employee of small-town Brown Star Insurance, living in his parents' former home and having a vaguely creepy fling with his former seventh-grade teacher (Sigourney Weaver). (Is it creepy because they're in his childhood bedroom, among his Little League photos? Or because Tim, who looks to be in his 30s, is as childlike and naive as a seventh-grader — or more so?)

Sent by Brown Star to the national insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Mich., Tim is initially thrilled by the glamour of big-city travel. Coach seats on the plane! An indoor swimming pool at the hotel! Card keys for the hotel-room door! A chance to use traveler's checks! We're supposed to be laughing at the fact that Tim finds the very ordinary convention hotel to be swanky, and it's mean-spirited — not to mention the kind of humor that grows old very quickly. A gang of new insurance-agent friends join Tim — swaggering Deanzie (John C. Reilly), strait-laced Ronald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), sultry Joan (Anne Heche) — and off we go on a scavenger hunt, an ill-considered romantic liaison, some tacky bathroom scenes and some insurance-related subterfuge.

Though there are a few funny moments here (mostly from Whitlock, who's got a knack for imitation and whose character is obsessed with "The Wire"), "Cedar Rapids" mostly feels like a manic slog, wearing its jokes out early on. You're left noting that Heche here comes off as a poor man's Patricia Clarkson, and that everyone in the heartland seems to be wearing earth tones, and that Reilly's character, who's vivid in the early scenes, is pitched so broadly he's got nowhere to go. Neither, alas, does this movie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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