It’s early in the year, but Miguel Artera’s Cedar Rapids is easily the best comedy of 2011. The quirky adult comedy has all the makings of becoming a cult classic and it sets a standard for hotel conference comedies.

Ed Helms stars as Tim Lippe, an incredibly naïve insurance agent who has never been on a plane, never stayed in a hotel, and seemingly never left his hometown of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. When Tim’s co-worker dies in a bizarre incident that exposes him as a freaky sexual deviant, Brown Star Insurance is thrown into a perilous situation. Tim is suddenly asked to save the company by presenting at an insurance conference in Cedar Rapids, where he’ll hope to secure Brown Star’s third consecutive “Two Diamond” award.

At the conference, Tim befriends characters played by John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Anne Heche. They are veterans of the convention and try to show him the ropes, despite his insistence on playing by the book. From there, hilarity ensues as Tim experiences many things for the first time, such as an indoor hotel pool, and there are plenty of funny situations where he finds himself drunk and/or high.

In his first starring role, Ed Helms is able to carry the film, but he’s also buoyed by the all-star cast. Helms executes the perfect mix of being endearing and dweeby, while he attempts to navigate the basics of modern adult interaction. His character is effectively the opposite of George Clooney’s in Up in the Air, as he’s anything but suave and experienced when it comes to air travel and hotel stays. His “kid in the candy store” reaction to the rather drab hotel in Cedar Rapids is part of the core undertone of Cedar Rapids.

Reilly is strong as Dean Ziegler, an older insurance agent with a frat boy attitude, but who still has more maturity and is more believable than some characters in other movies starring Reilly like Step Brothers or Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Whitlock also puts in a solid performance as Ronald Wilkes, an honest and hard-working insurance company owner. Whitlock pokes fun at his role as Clay Davis on HBO’s The Wire, a move that would normally bother me, but I love The Wire too much to complain.

Heche does a wonderful job of playing the seductive, witty and sarcastic insurance agent Joan Fox, who is intrigued herself with Tim. Her character is practically the opposite of the woman she plays on HBO’s Hung, as she’s charming, fun-loving and unpredictable.

Another fun performance is that of Sigourney Weaver, playing Tim’s former 7th grade teacher, who is now having an affair with him. Tim thinks he’s “pre-engaged” to her, but she has different ideas about their relationship. Alia Shawkat is also hilarious as a prostitute, who hangs out in front of the hotel in Cedar Rapids.

After directing the very underrated and underappreciated Youth in Revolt last year, Miguel Artera deserves more praise for this project. Set for limited release this weekend, Cedar Rapids has enough gags to keep you laughing all the way through, but it comes from a decidedly more adult perspective than sophomoric comedies like another Helms film in The Hangover.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa might not be everyone’s idea of a fun vacation, but the film Cedar Rapids will make for a fun trip to theater.

Cedar Rapids opens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, February 11.

Photos: Fox Searchlight Pictures