Published: April 13, 2011
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Opens April 15 at the Charles Theater
A socially stunted insurance salesman is forced to attend the titular convention, schmooze it up, and vie for a Prestigious Award with the future success of his company in the balance. Ed Helms as Tim Lippe could have stepped up in gravity from the half-joking, half-serious model of NBC’s The Office (where he has excelled for years as the weaselly “Nard Dog”), but it’s not happening here, and while there are lots of nutty convention hijinks to smile at, ultimately the whole schedule is a disappointment. You can see the rift between playing a scene for laughs and getting serious, and you just wish director Miguel Arteta could have taken a position. John C. Reilly, frequently channeling Michael Keaton, pumps big energy and life into this enterprise as an earthy conventioneer and he’s helped along with a nicely dialed-down turn by sometimes-crazypants Anne Heche and a sensitive take from The Wire’s Isaiah Whitlock Jr., as you are sucked into a subculture of essentially decent people navigating a banal reality, trying to get a little fun out of life. Stephen Root, from a million different things, is great here, along with that asshole who was the dad on Fox’s That ’70s Show and Alia Shawkat (all-grown-up Maeby Fünck from Arrested Development) as Bree, a seasoned local convention pro, who breaks your heart a little bit with her weary freckled face. Enough. Much like the lives of everyone you grow to know in this story, this could have been so much more. Maybe next convention.
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