Cedar Rapids (film)

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Cedar Rapids
Cedar rapids film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Produced by
Written by Phil Johnston
Music by Christophe Beck
Cinematography Chuy Chávez
Edited by Eric Kissack
Ad Hominem Enterprises
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • January 23, 2011 (2011-01-23) (Sundance)
  • February 11, 2011 (2011-02-11) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $6,861,102 (US)[1]

Cedar Rapids is a 2011 American comedy film directed by Miguel Arteta. The script, written by Phil Johnston, was included on the 2009 Black List, a Hollywood list of the most popular unproduced screenplays of the year.[2]


Naive and idealistic insurance agent Tim Lippe has led a sheltered life in the fictional town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin (north of Rhinelander, Wisconsin). At the beginning, he is shown welcoming a former teacher into his home, addressing her as Mrs. Vanderhei, and promptly having sex with her before reminiscing about his experiences as her student. In his position as an insurance agent, he is sent to represent his company (Brownstar Insurance) at a regional conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as a replacement for his co-worker, Roger Lemke, who dies in an auto-erotic asphyxiation accident. Tim idolized Roger, believing that his death was merely an unfortunate accident, and that he embodied all it was to be decent, honest, caring to the community and most importantly Christian, as these are the key criteria used to judge the winner of the coveted "Two Diamonds" award, which Roger had won three years in a row.

Tim is under pressure from his boss, Bill, to ensure they win again and keep the small company afloat. At the conference, Lippe meets fellow insurance agents Ronald Wilkes, Dean Ziegler from Stevens Point, Wisconsin and Joan Ostrowski-Fox, or "Ronimal", "Dean-Z" and "O-Fox" respectively. He also meets Bree, a sex worker who works the parking lot in front of the hotel. She affectionately calls him "Butterscotch" after he offers her a piece of butterscotch candy. Initially wary of almost everyone at the conference, he spends more time with Ron, Dean and Joan, and starts to develop genuine friendships and even a crush on Joan. All the insurance agents participate in a Scavenger Hunt, with Tim being paired with Joan, and although no one manages to complete the final task, they come farthest and thus win the contest and a gift card to a local restaurant. Tim, Joan and Dean become rather intoxicated through the night and end up in the hotel swimming pool, Tim and Joan's sexual tension builds to a head and, after making out in the pool, they make love (later, in Joan's hotel room). Regrettably, they were all seen in the pool by ASMI president Orin Helgesson (Kurtwood Smith).

The next morning, Tim is guilt-ridden and calls his older girl friend (and ex-teacher) Macy to confess, before desperately asking her to marry him, she takes this opportunity to explain that as a recently divorced woman she just wants to have fun, so she too has been sleeping with other people and tells him that perhaps "it's time for him to fly away from the nest and start a new life." Tim returns to Joan, who attempts to comfort him by telling him what Roger Lemke (the man he idolizes) was really like: that she was his lover but left him after his sexual appetites became a bit too twisted for her, and that he bribed Helgesson for each one of his Two Diamond awards. Tim refuses to believe this, and flees Joan's room, accusing her of being a "prostitute" sent to destroy his life.

He runs into Dean and accidentally lets it slip that Lemke had bought all of his Two Diamonds. Dean swears to not tell anyone, it becoming apparent that he already sees Tim as a true friend. After some words of advice from Dean, Tim goes to Helgesson for his assessment: it does not go well, and under the pressure he ends up also bribing Helgesson for the award, leaving him penniless and ashamed. He later comes across Bree and accompanies her to a party, which ends up with Tim getting high on crystal methamphetamine and inadvertently starting a fight. Ron, Joan and Dean show up just in time to rescue him, as well as Bree who claims she is in love with Tim.

The night ends with Bill appearing at Tim's door to inform him that with the successful acquisition of another Two Diamond award, he has received a generous offer for the company and despite it meaning the branch's closure, he has chosen to sell. The day of the Diamond awards comes and while Bill is formally announcing the sale, Tim bursts in and takes over the podium, revealing that his company has unethically acquired the award every year by bribing Helgesson and confesses to doing so himself. Helgesson flees the room, his reputation in tatters, and a furious Bill confronts Tim, his revelations having cost Bill the sale of his company. Tim responds by announcing his intentions to leave the company and start another with his clients from Brownstar, 17 of which have agreed to stay with him. Bill storms off, dumbfounded.

As the four friends say their goodbyes and prepare to see each other next year, we see Joan and Tim are happy as friends and Dean invites Ron and Tim to stay at a wealthy friend's cabin in Canada for the summer, both of them surprising Dean by gleefully accepting, their shared experiences having clearly awarded genuine friendships and personal growth to them all.

It is revealed during the credits that the three of them went on to start their own company together called Top Notch, with Joan involved as well.



The failure of an Iowa film production tax credit reportedly is the reason that the film was shot in Ann Arbor, Michigan, rather than on location in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, itself.[3] Michigan provided a 42% tax rebate to movies filmed in specified "core communities" in the state (such as Ann Arbor).[3]

In the film, Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) is a self-described fan of the television series The Wire and does an impersonation of one of its most popular characters, Omar Little. Whitlock was involved in the HBO series portraying character Clay Davis, but has said the references to the show were written in before he was cast as Wilkes.[4] Whitlock filmed a separate promotion for the film, where Wilkes is seen in an insurance office reading lines from The Wire.[5]


Critical response[edit]

Reviews for Cedar Rapids have been mostly positive. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86% of critics had given the film a positive review based on reviews from 152 critics and reports a rating average of 6.7 out of 10. The critical "consensus" is: "It's as conventional as its Midwestern setting, but Cedar Rapids boasts a terrific cast and a script that deftly blends R-rated raunch and endearing sweetness."[6] At NoobMovies, the film has a score of a 9/10.[7]

At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 70% based on 38 reviews.[8]

Box office[edit]

As of August 22, 2011, the film grossed a total of $6,861,102 in the US.[9]


  1. ^ Cedar Rapids (2011) - Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "2009 Black List With Thoughts". Script Shadow. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Nollen, Diana (23 January 2011), "‘Cedar Rapids’ movie debuts tonight at Sundance", Cedar Rapids Gazette, retrieved 24 January 2011 
  4. ^ Rich, Katey (10 February 2011), "Interview: The Wire's Isiah Whitlock Jr. Plays Against Type In Cedar Rapids", CinemaBlend.com, retrieved 21 February 2011 
  5. ^ CEDAR RAPIDS: Ronald vs. Omar from the Wire on YouTube, Fox Searchlight official channel via YouTube.com, Feb 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Cedar Rapids - Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ NoobMovies: Cedar Rapids Retrieved 2011-09-03
  8. ^ Cedar Rapids Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More - Metacritic
  9. ^ Cedar Rapids at Box Office Mojo

External links[edit]