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Goods, The: Live Hard, Sell Hard
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by Erik Childress

"Never Again! Never Again!"
1 stars

After seeing The Goods “from the guys who brought you Talladega Nights and Step Brothers” it dawned on me just how little credit Adam McKay appears to receive for his work behind the camera. Responsible for directorial duties on those two quoted films along with Anchorman and any number of hilarious shorts from Saturday Night Live and Funny or Die, whatever McKay is doing he must be doing right. He’s standing proof that you can assemble the best comic talent around but that a template for your premise still needs to exist along with knowing when to get in and get out of a joke. McKay is listed as a producer on The Goods (along with Will Ferrell) but its Neil Brennan, a writer/director from TV’s Chappelle’s Show, making his theatrical debut at the helm. Coming from the same sketch background as his producer, Brennan proves that he’s seen McKay’s movies but doesn’t know what makes them tick.

At a struggling car lot in Temecula, CA, owner Ben Selleck (James Brolin) is thinking of bringing in a “mercenary” to boost sales. One of these weekend liquidators is Don “The Goods” Ready (Jeremy Piven) who just finished another successful gig with his crew, Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames), Brent Gage (David Koechner) and Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn). Don’s brand of motivation is in your face, so much so, that he inspires a commercial airline to go from a non-smoking policy to something out of Soul Plane. Hardly the kind of thing you want to be thinking about within the first 15 minutes. Don is prepared to turn Selleck’s staff into weekend warriors, even unintentionally pumping them up into a hate crime against their Asian counterpart (Ken Jeong).

With strippers, a touchy DeeJay (Craig Robinson) and the promise of Bo Bice’s brother making an appearance, sales are good even if Don is beginning to lose his focus. Ben’s daughter, Ivy (Jordana Spiro), is a cheerful cutie on hand to be the one who sees through Don’s B.S. She’s also engaged to Paxton Harding (Ed Helms), the son of a rival businessman (Alan Thickeyes, Alan Thicke) who would like nothing more than to see Selleck’s crew fail so he can usurp the lot as a rehearsal center for his man/boy-band. Don also believes that he has a long-lost son in Selleck’s employment (based on his prowess for sales and similar finishing move) and is suffering some grief over an incident in “Querque.”

Any lover of film comedy may see The Goods as selling itself as a modern-day incarnation of Robert Zemeckis’ classic Used Cars. Rest assured though that this is no remake by any means. There is no rival car lot. Don Ready has no dreams of becoming a corrupt politician. And there are about 173 fewer laughs. For certain, nobody will be mistaking The Goods with Used Cars. The film it more closely resembles or at least aspires to is John Landis’ great documentary, Slasher, which focused on a Don Ready-type named Michael Bennett whose sales pitch was all about “what you think you’re getting,” and not what you actually get. I doubt if ticket buyers will be looking for an actual expose of car salesmen in The Goods, but you would think you’ll be getting a series of outlandish sales techniques. Unless the promise of sex and free hot dogs are going to give you pause the next time you head to a dealership, you’re liable to laugh louder at the first price you’re quoted than any of the pitches on display here.

Stale jokes are abound and those that wish to push the limits of acceptable social language (as in Charles Napier’s casual racist attitude) wind up just calling attention to their own outrageousness and provide the gasps without the laughter. So many of the subplots consist of nonchalant payoffs or none whatsoever. Rhames’ big side plot is a neediness to “make love.” When he discovers how boring it is, we’re missing the freakiness that should follow. Brolin’s Selleck reveals himself to be a horny homosexual with a literal boner for Koechner’s Brent in a reverse of his Champ Kind crush on Ron Burgundy. Hahn’s vulgar Babs has her panties in a bunch for Selleck’s man-child son, Peter (Rob Riggle) in a repeat of her sexual aggressiveness for John C. Reilly in Step Brothers. The difference here is that Peter may look 40 but he’s really only ten years old and the film forgets about their resolution just as quickly as we want to forget the plotline. Then you have Don Ready himself who is so thinly written he doesn’t build up enough steam to be likable or unlikable. After his unconsciable rant over being denied a smoke on the plane (and there were no non-smokers on that flight ready to pull a United 93 on him?) we never once see him again in the film with a cigarette. Piven is a natural improv, brilliant for years on Entourage, but he’s given so little to work with that during the big final day of the sale he’s left wandering in sorrow without even the bad choice of milk until the end of it.

Struggling to fill out its 80 minutes before the final codas, The Goods has the definitive feel of a film that has been chopped up and left for dead. Of course you have to wonder how bad the cut footage is if this is all we’re seeing. Neal Brennan inspires no modicum of sympathy though with scenes that arrive D.O.A. and then get worse from there. Did Alan Thicke have to leave early during the final scene? How about the second day riot that wants to build like something out of Airplane and, like much of everything else, becomes a pale imitation. I’ve never counted the amount of good, solid laughs in Used Cars but was able to do so with The Goods even if I wouldn’t exactly preface them with the words “good” or “solid.” Rhames’ comparison of Selleck’s lot to a certain Schwarzenegger film brought out a hearty chuckle and I did the same with Riggle’s reaction to the promise of a gift and Robinson’s closer on the lights being shut down on his DJ’ing. If you do manage to make it through the final credits you will get some outtakes towards the end. Actually, just one outtake. Actually, its not an outtake at all. Just a loop of an exchange Piven has with Spiro. Not just an unfunny one either, but one never meant to be funny, and here turned into some pointless remix that will have you wish McKay would have stepped in and inserted another out-of-nowhere Smokey and the Bandit outtake. Part 3 would have sufficed just fine.

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originally posted: 08/14/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

10/01/09 Marcia Lartz A hodgepodge of failed movie gags in search of a movie! 1 stars
8/27/09 R. G. Ranade Who anchors their movie around the unpleasant black hole that is Jeremy Piven? Terrible. 1 stars
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  14-Aug-2009 (R)
  DVD: 15-Dec-2009


  DVD: 15-Dec-2009

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