The plot: Small-town Iowa insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) winds up in "Hangover" territory when he's dispatched to a regional insurance conference in the "metropolis" of Cedar Rapids. Lippe's assignment: Bring home the coveted Two Diamond award previously won by a senior partner who recently hanged himself. Insurance veterans Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) do the corrupting, but it's Lippe who clings to his principles and ultimately prevails, redeeming himself and the entire insurance profession.
Why it's worthy: This entertaining sleeper may be the most list-worthy for its optimistic answer to a central moral question facing the insurance industry today: Can an honest, hardworking, community-minded insurance agent still make a living without selling his or her soul? That Lippe not only survives his baptism of fire (water) but uses his head and heart to outmaneuver his scheming superiors makes for one happy ending worthy of applause.
"It's quite a different message from what was coming out in stuff like 'The Apartment,' which was walk away from that life completely," says Pelecanos.
Set notes: Rated R for language and adult situations. Don't miss the TV commercial at the end.