After reviewing Cedar Rapids, I decided to take a wider look at the films of Ed Helms. He first played a correspondent on The Daily Show, before joining The Office, and building a feature film presence.
The films below are all post-Cedar Rapids films, since that was really his “breakout” film, even though the first Hangover film introduced him to a wider audience. This is not all of his films, just the ones I could find.
Love the Coopers (2016) An ensemble film also starring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, Marisa Tomei and Amanda Seyfried. The story of two people planning to divorce, but who want to provide one last special Christmas for their large family. Everyone has a secret they try to prevent from being known, plus there a number of fractured relationships. Sounds like the typical holiday gathering.
Helms plays the out-of-work son, who is struggling to get along with his ex-wife, please his sons and rebuild his life. His part is very small and underdeveloped. He is brooding, keeping his disappointment inside, but struggling through it. In the end, she hasn’t forgotten his smile. A cliched film, but worth a look. Narrated by Steve Martin as the family dog.
Father Figures (2017) Helms co-stars with Owen Wilson as brothers in search of their father. Helms is Peter, the practical brother. A divorced proctologist, who doesn’t have much of a life, he can’t relate to his son and watches Law & Order: SVU every night.
Peter is a lot like Tim Lippe (Cedar Rapids), just as square, but not as naïve. Peter is stuck in his own bubble world. With the proper motivation, Peter can loosen up and even be charming-funny. This might is a very normal character, and is often the straight-man to Wilson. These two characters are paired as opposites. Helms plays the kind of role that Ben Stiller usually occupies. Stiller must not have been available.
Father Figures is not a bad film, it is an average film. It tries too hard to be funny.
The Clapper (2017) Eddie Krumble (Helms) and his friend Chris (Tracy Morgan) are professional audience members at infomercials and other gigs where people need to be enthusiastic audience members. A weird romantic-comedy, it has received poor reviews and only limited release. The plot is like EdTV without being very funny. Media exposure can make and break people. Eddie does not want media exposure, it ruins his opportunity to be hired because he’s no longer anonymous. It also focuses attention on a girl with whom he is trying to form a relationship. The second half of the film is him trying to find her after the media attention gets her fired from her gas station job. Helms is trying to play a normal guy, who seems to be holding off some mental illness. He plays a much younger man and comes across as a bit creepy. There is a big point about the consequences of fame. Instead of being poignant about two ordinary people finding each other, it feels sad.
Helms does not have a harmless aura that Will Farrell and Steve Martin possess. They can be slightly off-kilter and be sweetly goofy, but Helms being manic is sometimes difficult to read.
I Do – Until I Don’t (2017) A film about several married couples, each of who is struggling with marriage and life issues. Helms and his wife are trying to have a baby and headed for bankruptcy. They also have communication issues, it takes them awhile to really talk. He’s a very straight guy with some underlying sexual issues, as does everyone in the film.
This is an edgy film, exploring the staleness and changing expectations of marriage. It’s funny, but also sad.
Chappaquiddick (2018) The story of Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne. Ed Helms plays Joe Gargan, Kennedy’s cousin and confidant. He has the tussled hair, horn rim glasses, and New England accent. Gargan is the conscience of the film, Helms plays him troubled and wrestling with family loyalty verses the truth. As I said in my Cedar Rapids review, Helms has the ability for dramatic roles, certainly like Steve Carell proved. I applaud him for taking a risk. Interestingly, comedian Jim Gaffigan also has a dramatic role in this film.
Tag (2018) Helms is part of another ensemble including Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jake Johnson and Rashida Jones. A group of longtime friends continue their annual game of tag into adulthood. Based on a real story. One of the friends (Jerry) is quitting the game because he’s getting married. Jerry has never been tagged, so they decide to crash Jerry’s wedding and tag him. This is not Shakespeare, although it is a bigger production than some of Helm’s films, and directed with style by first-time director Jeff Tomsic.
Helms is best in an ensemble. As Hogan, he’s well-educated, and the usual square trying to be hipper.
Corporate Animals (2019) Helms is Brandon, a professional team-builder, leading a group of clients through a series of activities to reshape them into a team. Brandon is rather smug and insensitive to the whining of the group.
The group get stuck in a cave after a cave-in blocks any escape. Brandon is killed. The film is supposed to be a black comedy with terror undertones. It must have seemed funny in the script pitch, is no better than a direct to video bottom shelf waste of time. Helms is lucky his character died early on. Unfortunately, the survivors ate his character. The reviews were fairly brutal for this film, co-produced by Helms.
I like Ed Helms, he was one of my favorite performers on The Daily Show. At age 47, he arrived kind of late, but he is youthful enough to play younger characters. This success allows him bigger film projects and the opportunity to develop and produce his own films and television projects. He does not have to hit a homerun every time, but too many Corporate Animals, and he may lose what he has spent many years achieving.
Meanwhile, enjoy a bit more Ed.