Good comic pol­icy in the Amer­i­can of­fice

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

WHEN THE top dog at Brown­star In­surance dies in an erotic as­phyx­i­a­tion ac­ci­dent, it falls to naive un­der­ling Tim Lippe (Helms) to rep­re­sent the Wis­con­sin an­nex at the an­nual con­ven­tion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Lippe is a small-town boy whose only grown-up pur­suits in­volve vaguely Oedi­pal romps with his for­mer mid­dle-school teacher (Sigour­ney Weaver).

He can scarcely fathom the glam­our of the mid­west­ern busi­ness cen­tre that awaits him. He waves cheer­fully at the low-rent pros­ti­tute at the en­trance; he gazes across the chlo­rine pool and sees an ex­otic idyll; he looks aghast when the concierge asks to swipe his credit card for in­ci­den­tals.

Can this hap­less hero pos­si­bly re­tain Brown­star’s Blue Di­a­mond award for the third year run­ning? Not if Lippe’s par­ty­ing col­leagues have any say in the mat­ter.

Ron­ald Wilkes (Isiah Whit­lock jnr) proves a de­pend­able type, how­ever, once Lippe has re­cov­ered from the ini­tial shock of hav­ing to room with him – “There’s an Afro-Amer­i­can stand­ing in my room”. But Anne Heche’s happy slap­per Joan and John C Reilly’s vol­u­ble vul­gar­ian Dean Zei­gler will in­sist on lead­ing their new friend into all sorts of shenani­gans.

There’s a lot of The Hang­over’s strange alchemy in Cedar Rapids, and it’s not just the Ed Helms con­nec­tion.

One minute, crazed red­neck bik­ers are chas­ing the cen­tral quar­tet, prompt­ing Whit­lock to af­fect his best Omar im­pres­sion (“Hey! I am straight up gang­ster and al­ways keep one in the cham­ber, in case you pon­der it”). The next, Lippe is re­lat­ing the gen­uinely poignant tale of how he started at Brown­star.

No mat­ter how bawdy Reilly gets – “What’s the mat­ter friend, have you never seen a chocolate-vanilla love sand­wich be­fore?” – di­rec­tor Miguel Arteta keeps it real with the same flair for low-key comic Amer­i­cana he once brought to The Good Girl and Chuck & Buck.

Lippe, though a coun­try mouse in brown clothes, is no mere stooge, but a sweet guy who gen­uinely be­lieves in his call­ing.

The re­sults aren’t quite Mike-Tyson-with-a-tiger funny, but they will surely please fans of The Of­fice and in­surance sales agents the world over.

Of­fice pol­i­tics: Isiah Whit­lock jnr, John C Reilly and Ed Helms

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