The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)

4 Sep

In this corner, trying hard to win your affection yet failing miserably: Our Heroes.

Remember not so long ago during the “Kick-Ass” discussion when I cautioned against using a descriptive word in your title if you couldn’t guarantee said word? You guessed it, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” doesn’t deliver, um, the goods. Not by a long shot.

Jeremy Piven is as at his smarmiest as Don “The Goods” Ready, a car mercenary recruited by failing dealerships to revive sales. Together with his team of over-achieving miscreants —  Jibby, Brent and Babs (Ving Rhames, David Koechner and Kathryn Hahn) — he agrees to champion the cause of Selleck Motors, a small family business owned by Ben Selleck (James Brolin). Ready’s mission: Whip Selleck’s wimpy sales staff into shape and move a lot of metal. But with Ready falling for the boss’s daughter, her irritating fiance causing trouble and a rival dealership owner ready to swoop in and steal Selleck Motors, moving that metal proves more of a minefield than ever.
So this movie has a pretty solid premise. Reviving a failing small business is a good sell in the current economic environment, and the notion of car lot wars is fairly clever. Unfortunately, “The Goods” starts with those plot points and then proceeds to veer off-course wildly through a series of increasingly ridiculous and seemingly unrelated plot threads which, for the most part, aren’t very funny. What momentum this movie builds it squanders on poorly timed vulgarities, cheap gags and wasted cameos. The writing is maddeningly uneven, and it honestly seems like the filmmakers weren’t sure what to keep and what to throw out and so opted (foolishly) to just leave it all in. What doesn’t work? Let’s start naming it off: the subplot about what happened in ‘Querque, the subplot about Babs’ inappropriate attraction to Peter Selleck, a 10-year-old boy trapped in a man’s body, and the subplot about how Jibby has never made love to a woman. That’s three subplots in a film that also includes a few main plot tangents: the car lot save, the get-the-girl arc and the dealership rivalry thread. It’s just too much.

Talk about your wasted opportunities. That's Alan Thicke right there, and by looking at this picture you've virtually seen his entire performance.

Piven, as already mentioned, has his smarmy pants on for this role. He’s all over the place in this film, ranging from greasy playboy to earnest lover to well-meaning huckster to flagrant scammer. He’s pretty much impossible to really like. Hahn’s Babs is distressingly one-note and her particular subplot is so off-putting that her character never really recovers. Rhames is also wasted with his makin’ love mini-quest and a few vulgar speeches delivered so dryly that they leave funny behind and take the exit to creepy instead.
And that hints at a gripe about this movie: There’s just so much pointless nudity and needless vulgarity. I have no aversion to nudity, but filming in a strip club just to film in a strip club is tacky. The filmmakers evidently believe restraint is a sign of weakness. A fair amount of f-bombs and off-color jokes are to be expected in a screwball R-rated comedy, but too often the writers rely on the F-word to draw laughs. It’s just lazy writing, and an insult to your audience, to set up a joke and pay it off with a mere F-bomb. One egregious example is a ridiculous sequence involving a baby uttering a curse-laden phrase which brought an otherwise rollicking sequence to a screeching halt. The other brick wall comes in the form of a cameo by the love-him-or-hate-him Will Ferrell. (In this movie, you’ll probably hate both him and the seemingly endless story arc involving him).
Which isn’t to say “The Goods” is utterly joyless. It delivers a fair amount of laughs thanks to the work of its supporting players. Koechner is solid as numbers-guy Brent Gage, and Brolin is surprisingly hilarious as Ben Selleck. Koechner and Brolin have a dinner table sequence that, while not at all subtle, is a smarter sort of comedy than what the rest of the film offers. It’s a little slice of squirmy humor in an otherwise happy-to-be-obvious flick. The real comic jewel is this movie is Ed Helms as dweeby Paxton Harding, both the rival dealership owner’s son and Selleck’s daughter’s fiance. His particular story tangent is the only one I wasn’t displeased with, mainly because it was consistently a riot. Jordana Spiro does a good job in the dual love interest role of Ivy Selleck. She’s pleasant and has a real-girl quality to her that’s refreshing considering most of the other women in this movie are strippers. Also notable is Charles Napier as the scene-stealing curmudgeonly car salesman Dick Lewiston.
This movie is it’s own worst enemy: It strays too far from its interesting premise and solid center, it provides us with too many reasons to dislike the main characters, and it can’t manage to sustain any kind of momentum. Despite delivering some serious laughs, it has to be said: “The Goods” just isn’t very good. Two stars out of four.

“The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard”: Rated R. Starring Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, James Brolin, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Ed Helms, Jordana Spiro, Tony Hale, Ken Jeong and Rob Riggle. Directed by Neal Brennan. Written by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson. Cinematography by Daryn Okada. Original music by Lyle Workman.
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One Response to “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)”

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  1. Slasher (2004) « Rhanda watches - November 22, 2010

    […] few weeks ago, I watched “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” While I was right in thinking it would be stupid, I was wrong in assuming it would also […]

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