| It's only February on the calendar, but this movie taking place in the titular Midwestern city is the funniest of the year.
Ed Helms ("The Office" and "The Hangover") gets his first starring role in a feature film and makes the most of his opportunity. Helms plays wholesome insurance salesman Tim Lippe (pronounced "lippy"). Tim has been living his whole life in the small town of Brown Valley, Wis., and has a solid base of loyal customers. He has a schoolboy mindset having settled for a love affair with his former seventh-grade teacher, Macy Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver from "Avatar" and "The Ice Storm").
Tim is in for a rude awakening when he is sent by his company, Brown Star Insurance, to make a presentation to Orin Helgesson (Kurtwood Smith from "That '70s Show"), chapter president of the American Society of Mutual Insurers, at the regional convention.
Beginning with his first ride in a commercial airplane, this trip breaks lots of new ground for Tim. He gets out of his comfort zone and discards a rigid set of moral principles.
He shares a suite with Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr. from AMC's "Rubicon"), a straight-laced workaholic, and Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly from "Cyrus" and "Chicago"), a wild party animal who, in addition to instigating outrageous hi-jinks, weighs, drinks and talks too much.
Tim also meets seductive redhead Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Ann Heche from HBO's "Hung" and "Donnie Brasco"), a married insurance rep with two kids looking for a quick roll in the hay.
Tim learns about spontaneity, tactlessness and making new friends.
This crowd-pleaser debuted at last month's Sundance Film Festival. Director Miguel Arteta's ("The Good Girl") skillful execution of Phil Johnston's fresh and original screenplay yields exceptional performances from the cast. Helms exudes a boyish charm while initially being the butt of every joke. His character undergoes the biggest transformation going from a nervous, insecure guy to a decisive strategist.
An over-the-top Reilly steals every scene with a steady stream of colorful and descriptive language. This should be a breakout performance for Whitlock Jr., who has his own unique way of delivering lines. Heche gets a chance to let it all hang out with a meaty role as a girl who just wants to have a little naughty fun.
The movie is tightly edited and knows when to wrap things up with a perfect running time of 86 minutes. The movie finds a happy medium in balancing crude and raunchy humor with sweet emotional moments. It wins the audience over from the opening scene.
You can't go wrong if you are looking for a movie that has its heart and soul in the right place and delivers lots of laughs. It opens for a limited engagement at AMC Studio 30, the Glenwood Arts and the Cinemark Palace at the Plaza.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"