American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
You might be making the mistake of thinking of Cedar Rapids as a town. In "Cedar Rapids," a sweet comedy with a dirty mind, it is a metropolis, a sinkhole of sex, sin and high living at an annual insurance industry convention. Into this pit of depravity descends the innocent and naive Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), who never before has left his hometown of Brown Valley, Wis.
Helms, from "The Office," is assigned to take the big trip after his boss dies in embarrassing circumstances. His character, a bachelor, still lives in his childhood home, though excitement has recently entered his life with his first affair. Yes, he's sleeping with his grade-school teacher, Miss Vanderhei, who is played by Sigourney Weaver as a woman who has seen it all — if it's in Brown Valley, anyway.
Lippe's assignment: Attend the convention and come home with the coveted Two Diamonds Award. I immediately flashed on the older son in the Errol Morris doc "Gates of Heaven," sitting proudly behind and in front of plaques and statuettes and observing that he is displaying "the maximum trophies" to impress young recruits into — yes, it was the insurance business there, too. Apparently the folks in Brown Valley prefer to deal with Two Diamonds winners.
The coveted award is the gift of Orin Helgesson (Kurtwood Smith), a mighty figure at the convention. I recall from my days as a cub reporter the self-importance of "industry legends" who lovingly spoke at length to their captive audiences. Helgesson is very public with his piety, and it would be a disaster if he discovered how Lippe's boss died. Lippe's job is to stay out of trouble. Since he doesn't smoke or drink, and his sexual adventures are possibly limited to Miss Vanderhei, this should be easy.