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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD"


Jeremy Piven and his motley band of salesman try - and fail - to deliver The Goods.
 
The full title of the movie is The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. That has to be the most awkward and cumbersome title since Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. One has to wonder why they chose that particular title. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that simply calling it The Goods would open the picture up to easy puns from unimpressed critics. ("The Goods? They should've called it The Bads!)

Why, you might ask, am I focusing on the title rather than the picture itself? The answer is simple: the title is more compelling. I wanted to love this movie. I really did. A lot of talented people are involved. What's actually up on screen isn't terrible, it's just…bland. This is not the kind of movie that is aiming for bland. It's full of politically incorrect humor and unapologetic raunchiness. If there's one thing it should distinctly not be, it's bland.

Jeremy Piven plays Don "The Goods" Ready, a "mercenary" car salesman who travels from city to city helping struggling car dealerships move their wares. He and his team - which also includes Ving Rhames, David Koechner, and Katherine Hahn - are brought in to help Selleck Motors, a Temecula, California dealership whose owner (James Brolin) needs to move over 200 cars in just a few days if he is to escape bankruptcy. Don and crew resort to a series of underhanded tricks to accomplish this. Meanwhile, Don also tries to woo the owner's daughter Ivy (Jordana Spiro), who is engaged to a doofus (Ed Helms) with aspirations to be in a boy band.

The Goods doesn't really have a plot. It's more like it has a premise, followed by 90 minutes of people acting in various inappropriate and anti-social ways. There's a whole subplot about the owner's 10 year-old son, who has a strange thyroid condition that causes him to look like a grown man. Don's female colleague spends the whole picture trying to have sex with the kid. That's about the level of sophistication you will find here.

The movie was produced by Gary Sanchez Films, a company run by Will Ferrell and his partner Adam McKay. It's clearly going for the type of absurd humor that has been the trademark of Ferrell's own Step Brothers or Talladega Nights. The problem is that they've cast the film with actors who don't specialize in this very distinct style of humor, and therefore flounder under the weight of it.

I like Jeremy Piven, but he's essentially playing his "Entourage" character Ari Gold as a car salesman instead of an agent. He talks a mile a minute and peppers his language with regular profanity. There's no doubt that Piven has the intensity of Don Ready; however, he's not really funny here because he doesn't know how to play the inherent absurdity. In his hands, the character is massively unlikable. This role really called for Danny McBride or John C. Reilly - actors who have worked in this Farrell-esque world before and could really nail it.

Some of the peripheral actors fare a little better. Ed Helms is amusing, as is Craig Robinson, playing a psychotic disc jockey named DJ Request who - get this - refuses to play requests. (He's hired to spin records during the big sale.) These guys only get a few scenes, though, so their efforts aren't enough to make a big impact. Then there's the man himself - Will Ferrell, who cameos for two scenes. Lo and behold, they are the two best scenes in the whole movie. Once somebody comes in who actually knows what he's doing, the laughs start surfacing.

I did crack up occasionally at The Goods, but it just wasn't consistently enough for me to give it a recommendation. With a comedy like this, you want to be laughing constantly, not every 15 or 20 minutes. Maybe it's time for the government to come up with a Cash for Clunkers program that applies to movies. That way, if you get stuck seeing The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard you'd at least be getting paid for your time.

( out of four)


The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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