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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Director: Neal Brennan
Cast: Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, James Brolin, Jordana Spiro, Ed Helms

(US DVD: 15 Dec 2009)

Review [14.Aug.2009]

For a film that’s subtitled “Live Hard, Sell Hard,” the DVD for The Goods is an extreme soft sell, with none of the slick tricks that move cars off the lot in the movie. The release is essentially featureless—the type of DVD where there’s nothing to hype on the main menu except for scene selection and audio subtitles.


This is odd, not just because the movie is all about selling through hype. It’s bizarre because the film was at least partially produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (though written by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson, whose only other credit is Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach, and directed by Chappelle’s Show veteran Neal Brennan). Ferrell and McKay, for their own DVDs, have elaborate packages of features that range from silly outtakes to, in the case of Anchor Man, and entire second movie pieced together from alternate takes and an excised subplot. That The Goods didn’t have enough material to even put together a gag reel hints at the thinness of the comedy present in the film.


On the surface, The Goods has the same basic blueprint as the other Ferrell/McKay comedies (and that of their brother-in-comedy, Judd Apatow). Don “The Goods” Ready (Jeremy Piven) lives in a state of arrested development, until some challenge forces him to reevaluate his life, settle down, and grow up. In this case, he leads a team of car-salesmen mercenaries—a group played by Ving Rhames, David Koechner, and Kathryn Hahn—on a mission to sell out an entire struggling used-car lot in one weekend, simultaneously saving a family business and saving face in front of a rival salesman. They employ a series of sleazy, smooth-talking tactics and big, flashy attention-getting ploys to move the cars.


In one respect,  the premise is sufficiently wacky enough, and the ensemble is sufficiently talented enough (supporting players also include Ed Helms, Tony Hale, Ken Jeong, Rob Riggle, and Craig Robinson) that some of the jokes manage to land. Piven is a natural match for a used-car salesman, taking his smarmy Entourage persona down into the mud. Robinson especially works as “DeeJay Request,” a DJ that refuses to take requests.


For the most part, though, The Goods doesn’t have anything for its talent to do, and indulges in every easy joke. To plaster over the lack of funny ideas, gags, or dialogue, the characters just resort to saying “motherfucker” over and over. The huge ensemble is reduced to as series of one-note or half-note gags—get this, Ken Jeong’s character is Asian!—used to kill time when Piven is off-screen. And, since yes, it is funny to watch Piven go off on some type of ranting monologue, the film gets out of his way and gives them to him—many times.


He gives a speech to psych up his team to take on one more July 4th assignment. He gives a speech on a plane to convince the stewardess to let him smoke on the flight. He gives a speech to the salesmen at the used car lot to inspire them to sell out the place. Then, in a twist, when he’s missing for a short time, the car salesmen give a speech about how they can sell cars without him. It demonstrates a total lack of restraint—and one that’s understandable, because Piven’s monologues are pretty much the only comedy they’ve got. And, though it may work to sell cars, it certainly doesn’t work to sell this movie.

Rating:

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13 Aug 2009
The Goods' vulgarity is not new or clever or even comically shocking. It is, instead, prosaic and repetitive.
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