'The Goods': Kick the Tires, And the Writers
By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 14, 2009
There's surely no actor alive better suited to play the hustling, slightly sleazy used car salesman at the center of "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" than Jeremy Piven. The sharp-tongued fireplug, best known for playing the voracious talent agent Ari Gold on the HBO series "Entourage," seems plucked from some distant revival of "Glengarry Glen Ross," with profanities and politically incorrect outrages at the ready.
But in this sloppy compendium of filthy jokes and lowbrow sight gags, the vulgar arias of David Mamet have been replaced with the preoccupations of its producers, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Granted, they've been responsible for some of the most satisfying, smart-stupid comedies in recent years, including "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights." There are laughs to be had in "The Goods," which features Ferrell himself in two of the funniest scenes. But most often they're cheap and easy, delivered with such crude attempts at shock value that they can't be repeated in a family newspaper.
Piven plays Don Ready, an itinerant car salesman who leads a team of fellow mercenaries throughout the American West, parachuting in when a dealership is in trouble. He's been called to a dusty California town by Ben Selleck (James Brolin), who must have a strong Fourth of July weekend or lose his business forever. With his ragtag group of foulmouthed fellow mercenaries (played by Ving Rhames, Kathryn Hahn and David Koechner), Don descends on Selleck's lot with a pocketful of gimmicks, including a DJ, strippers to greet the customers and plenty of red, white and blue bunting. Soon his prime motivation becomes impressing Selleck's comely blonde daughter Ivy (Jordana Spiro), who makes him reconsider his boot-heels-must-be-wandering ways.
Selleck brings his own squad of misfits to the fray: At one point a Korean salesman, played by Ken Jeong, is set upon by colleagues in a fit of pique over Pearl Harbor. They're egged on by a coke-snorting, obscenity-spewing veteran played by the squared-jawed character actor Charles Napier.
Rooting for all of them to fail is Ivy's dweeb of a fiance, Paxton (Ed Helms), who sells foreign cars and leads a superannuated boy band called Big Ups. Watching Helms mug it up as an aging wannabe pop star in "The Goods" serves as an unlikely reminder of why "The Hangover," a similarly raunchy but much better comedy in which he also co-starred, has become one of this summer's surprise hits. Where "The Hangover" had its share of ebbs and dead spots, it still managed to hum along at an easy, increasingly madcap clip. "The Goods," which was written by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson and directed by Neal Brennan ("Half Baked"), barely makes it to the finish line, wheezing and sputtering like one of Selleck's clunkers.
As it lurches from set piece to set piece, "The Goods" begins to take on the very sense of con artistry that Ready personifies. It's as if the filmmakers, assured of an audience parched for laughs in the dog days of August, figure it's enough to throw them running gags involving Brolin and his character's gay proclivities and the seduction of a 10-year-old boy in a 30-year-old's body (played by Rob Riggle), broken up with rote profanity. The audience will no doubt laugh on cue as "The Goods" hits its marks with dutiful predictability, but they shouldn't be surprised if they come to feel like they've been had.
Contains sexual content, nudity, pervasive profanity and some drug material.