Unfunny and Forgettable
Fans of Will Ferrell will be pleased to know that he makes a brief cameo in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. However, most will be disappointed when they find out not only how brief his appearance is, but also how unfunny both he and the movie are. Strangely though, parts of the film are gut-bustingly hilarious. It has plenty of the raunchiness so many similar films find success with, and is never afraid to reach for silly. But the filmmakers are never quite able to pull it all together and make it feel like anything more than a series of loosely connected comedy skits. Itís steeped in that thick air of improvisation which can either sink or float a film, but none of the performances are memorable enough, nor is the material funny enough to amount to anything worth recommending.
The film stars Jeremy Piven as Don Ready, a smooth-talking hotshot sales agent whose team is called in to rescue a small California auto dealership on the verge of going under. Readyís team of crackerjacks is like the Ghost Busters of car sales, I suppose. The team is made up of Jibby (Ving Rhames), Brent (David Koechner), and Babs (Kathryn Hahn) who are hired to sell every car at Selleck Motors over the July 4th weekend to keep it from being taken over by a rival dealership owned by Stu Harding (Alan Thicke). The proceedings are polluted with numerous unfunny subplots such as the one where Don inexplicably thinks that 22-year-old worker Blake (Jonathan Sadowski) is his unknown son, or the one that finds Babs falling for a 10-year-old boy with a rare disease that makes him appear to be 30-something. Then thereís the unfitting appearance of a ghost -- complete with back-up singers -- in the form of Will Ferrell. But letís not even get into that.
The entire success of the film falls on the shoulders of Piven whoís trying to parlay his TV success (HBOís Entourage) into the role of central movie character. His Don Ready appears cocksure and oily, two characteristics that carry over from the persona heís built up over the last few years, and that also suit his Ready perfectly. But whatís sorely missing involves an attraction to his character. We need to love him and root for him in spite of his despicable nature. Adam Sandler gets it right in Funny People. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church nailed it in Sideways. There has to be something... anything to get our unwarranted sympathy. In an early scene, as Ready and his band of merry shysters make their way to Temecula California, Ready decides he wants to smoke on the airplane. But when warned by a flight attendant that itís illegal to do so, he launches into a defense of civil rights speech that eventually has the other passengers partying and smoking in the aisles. Itís meant to showcase Pivenís verbal acuity and to endear us to his character. Instead it does neither. The one actor in The Goods who almost works is Rhames as Jibby. We see his sensitive side when he talks with Babs about his search for true love. He thinks he finds it with stripper Heather (Noureen DeWulf).
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard could have been a lot worse, I suppose. As it is, itís really just a forgettable comedy with more than a few truly laugh-out-loud moments. At times it gets up and running on all cylinders, but misfires often with bits that simply donít jell. Itís as if director Neal Brennan sensed when a scene wasnít working, quickly pulled out and moved on to something else, leaving broken bits and pieces strewn about the place. The Goods is another of those raunch-coms of late, rated a hard ďRĒ for sexual content, nudity and pervasive language, but unlike most, this one canít find a comedic groove with its naughty patter. And neither is Piven ever capable of carrying the film. These days it takes more than the shock and awe of excessive vulgarity and outrageous dialogue to win us over.
(Released by Paramount Vantage and rated ďRĒ for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.