Then there’s Orin, the conference chair and rigid proponent of biblical and family values. His disdainful passive-aggressiveness is bad enough, but worse yet he’s also a hypocrite. For Tim to win the coveted award that holds his job in the balance, Orin doesn’t merely expect a bribe in return but actually demands it. Behind closed doors, the virtuous leader is really a selfish fraud and unabashedly so. Meanwhile, Tim’s “ethically suspect” new friends (who Orin has sneered and mocked) are now suddenly honorable because, well, at least they’re honest.

Look, I’m all for humanizing people who are morally flawed and also for exposing moral hypocrisy (religious or otherwise), but when the humanizing only occurs in one instance and not the other then a story alienates and feels preachy (even if mildly so, as Cedar Rapids is here). Consequently, the lesson Tim learns (and the film conveys) is that moral relativity is freeing so long as you live sincerely by our own code, while moral absolutism is an antiquated ideal and the people who preach it are really its worst offenders.

That message, while there, isn’t ham-fisted and brazen. The tone of the film is so light, in fact, that I doubt the filmmakers were consciously agenda-driven. It’s rather, I suspect, a classic example of a relativist worldview unconsciously emerging. There’s no sense of deep malice or a sinister objective against virtue but, simply, the common credo of, “Hey man, we all just need to lighten up and be cool.” 

The hard-R language and content make Cedar Rapids play like an indie-version of Helms’ The Hangover, and so it will likely play more to the people it affirms and less to those it belittles. Still, whether the derision is intentional or not, it’s difficult to get past the construct that both sophistication and graciousness are directly related to urban exposure while rural culture breeds simpleminded repression.  Small-town people aren’t bad; apparently, they’re just stupid in a cute sort of way.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  Several scenes of drinking (at meals, in bars) and occasional drunkenness (that leads to other immoral behavior).  A house party filled with alcohol and drug use. Tim gets buzzed on cocaine.
  • Language/Profanity:  All forms of profanity used throughout (including f--k, s--t, a--), the Lord’s name taken in vain in multiple variations, as well as many sexually crude words and references (especially by Deanzy).
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  An early scene of intercourse (explicit in action, but no nudity).  Rear male nudity. Two naked men hug in a locker room (but only seen from waist-up).  Joan strips down to her underwear before getting into a pool, tempts Tim to join her; he does, and then she removes her bra while underwater. They embrace and kiss.