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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009) Print E-mail
Friday, 14 August 2009
ImageWhile Jeremy Piven was a decent character actor running around Hollywood starting in the 90's, he's gained almost all of his notoriety by playing skillful super talent agent Ari Gold on the hit HBO series Entourage. As Ari, Piven is a man driven to get everything he can for his clients, wrestling deals with studios and telling the stars what they need to hear. This sort of high-powered sales pitch seems like it's ready-made for Piven's first big leading role--Don Ready in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. However, despite Piven giving it the old college try, and even with a decent team of comedic actors running behind him, the movie still falls flat.

Piven is Don Ready, and he's got the goods. Don is the kind of man who will sell you the car you came to trade in. Always on the road, never settling down, he and his team make dreams come true. There's Babs Merrick (Kathyrn Hahn, Anchorman), horny sexpot, Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames, Mission: Impossible, Pulp Fiction), a man looking to find his tender side, and Brent Gage (David Koechner, Anchorman again), Don's second in command. They're called into Temecula when car lot owner Ben Selleck (James Brolin) finds he's about to go bankrupt. They now have three days to sell 211 cars, or else Ben has to sell his dealership to a local rival (Alan Thicke). On paper, The Goods seems perfect. You’ve got Jeremy Piven in a role he was born to play, a mercenary car salesman. He’s working with a veteran team of comedians, and on top of it all you’ve got James Brolin and Alan Thicke! Where does it all go wrong? Well, to start, the script is a series of missed opportunities. The advertisements proudly proclaim that this movie is from the people who brought you Talladega Nights, and while that movie also had problems, one thing it never lacked was over the top ridiculousness. And yet The Goods, whose premise seems to demand over the top ridiculousness (I mean, selling cars in Temecula? Can you get more mundane than that?) doesn’t have nearly enough of it. Only one scene, where an unhappy crowd of customers riots, comes close to the level of absurdity this movie should be operating on at all times.

Instead of putting the actors in hilarious situations, the writers decided to go the route of complete and utter obscenity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love dirty humor. But simply throwing out swear words and racial slurs doesn’t make comedy, especially when that’s all there is to the movie. At a certain point, you just stop paying attention to it, which means all you have to focus on is the story, which is also paper thin.

That’s not to say the movie is a complete and utter train wreck. The stuff that works in the trailer works here. When Ready whips a plane full of people into a fervor over the right to smoke, it’s funny. When his speech descends the plane into an all out orgy (complete with Don ripping the top off of Flight of the Conchords’ Kristen Schaal), it’s funny. It’s just not funny enough to carry a movie who thinks the height of humor is Will Ferrell dropping out of the sky surrounded by dildos.

The highlights of the movie are the smaller things. James Brolin digs into his role with relish, not just as a car salesman but also as a gay man constantly hitting on Brent. One of the better scenes has Brolin calmly and soothingly telling Brent that he rides around late at night with his windows down. “Some people call it cruising,” he muses, “But I call it looking for a friend.” It’s funny because it’s Brolin. Another good running gag has The Hangover’s Ed Helms as a rival car salesman who spends his free time in a local boy band (or “Man Band” as he calls it) called “BigUps.” Less effective is Charles Napier as a WWII veteran who assaults customers and speaks only in racial epithets.

There may be a good movie hidden somewhere in what must be the hours of footage that didn’t make it in to The Goods (the trailer alone features several shots and lines that were noticeably absent from the final cut), but if there is, the filmmakers weren’t able to put it together. While Piven and company might work hard and sell hard, they’re going to have to work harder to make me laugh.

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