Directed by: Neal Brennan
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, James Brolin, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Jordana Spiro
I’m writing this less than 24 hours since I saw The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. I laughed a couple times during the movie, but I have no clue at this point what I laughed at—and I wonder if the guy sitting a few rows in front of me who was laughing at everything remembers what he was laughing at either. It was all pretty insubstantial, disconnected and vaguely mean-spirited. Actually, I spent most of the film thinking The Goods was more “funny odd” than “funny ha-ha.” This, after all, is a movie where one of the running gags involves a woman trying to seduce a 10-year-old boy with a glandular condition that makes him look 35—and a not attractive 35 either. This seems more peculiar than funny to me.
It’s not that I was offended. It’s that I was bored by the attempt to offend me. I was bored by the gay jokes, the ethnic jokes and the sex jokes that were intended to shock me. This stuff isn’t the transgressive comedy of the early days of John Waters—back when there wasn’t even any point in trying to secure an MPAA rating. You know full well The Goods is not going to go all the way, but is going to adhere to the rules that will assure it that R rating. No horses are actually going to be frightened—just threatened with the prospect of it.
If that’s not vieux jeu enough for you, the film was cobbled together by folks who think that boy bands are a hot topic just waiting to be satirized—along with MC Hammer and 2005 American Idol runner-up, Bo Bice. And the sound track! Jeremy Piven doing versions of Bob Seeger songs and dusting off Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” and The Ides of March’s “Vehicle” is happening stuff. (The latter I don’t think I’d heard since I was in high school—a situation I was comfortable with.) A case could be made that this is part of the film’s condescending attitude toward small-town America. Does that make it better or worse?
The whole premise is that smarmy Don Ready (played by smarmy Jeremy Piven) commands a hotshot team of used-car liquidators who are at the service of a failing car dealership in need of a sales boost over July Fourth weekend. That’s it. The comedy comes from Ready and company being vulgar and outspoken and the locals being weird to the nth degree. Of course, Ready will fall in love—and want a “real life”—with the owner of the dealership’s daughter, Ivy (Jordana Spiro, TV’s My Boys). (But the movie remembers it’s edgy, so this is squashed during the “where are they now” wrap-up.) It’s all pretty tiresome. By the time co-producer Will Ferrell shows up for his unfunny cameo, murderous impulses are understandable.
More than anything, The Goods proves that Jeremy Piven is better in small doses—think Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla. His peculiar blend of arrogance and tin-plated cheese isn’t the sort of thing that was ever meant to carry an entire film. Of course, the film at hand doesn’t actually give him anything to work with, but it’s hard to imagine him capable of delivering more if it had. He’s like a less personable Dane Cook. Think about that for a minute. Think about the enormity of that statement. Think hard. Now ask yourself if you really want to see this movie. Rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material.