Saturday, August 29, 2009


Freshman director Neal Brennan’s glib, irreverent, R-rated comedy “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” (* out of ****) qualifies as a clunker that delivers little but lame laughs about an arrogant used car liquidator. Nothing in this contrived comedy is a tenth as side-splitting as Robert Zemeckis’ supremely silly saga “Used Cars” (1980) that co-starred Kurt Russell and Jack Warden. “Talladega Nights” producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell along with first-time scenarists Andy Stock and Rick Stempson sink their first-rate cast with nothing but stinking jokes and crude routines that flatten on impact. Nevertheless, Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, James Brolin and Charles Napier humble and humiliate themselves without a qualm. Napier is especially militant as a chauvinistic, foul-mouthed World War II veteran, while James Brolin’s masquerade as tired hubby gone gay who hits on straight guy David Koechner is more inept than funny.

You know you’re in trouble when the best gag in the movie has an Asian-American car salesman accepting an official bank money bag as payment for the vehicle as the customer swerves off the lot. No sooner does the salesman pop open the bag than blue paint from a canister inside blinds him. As he staggers away, he shrieks, “I feel like I just got jizzed by a smurf.” The next best joke has Piven quizzing an unsuspecting person with: “How much did the polar bear weigh?” As the puzzled respondent shrugs, Piven replies, “Enough to break the ice.” This gag gives him the opportunity to introduce himself.

Don Ready (Jeremy Piven of HBO’s “The Entourage”) makes his living selling cars that nobody else could pawn. He has been selling autos since he was a kid. He knew that he had the knack when he sold his hippity-hop ball with designer handles to another neighborhood kid for the latter’s deluxe, low-riding, plastic tricycle with streamers sprouting from the handle bars. Since then Don has been selling and he hasn’t looked back. Don has assembled an A-Team of used car sales people that include Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames of “Pulp Fiction”), Brent Gage (David Koechner of “The Comebacks”), and Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn of “Stepbrothers”) who can clear car lots with their questionable tactics.

Don receives a call from Benjamin K. Selleck (James Brolin of “The Amityville Horror”) who is about to lose his family-owned used car lot to the bank. When our heroes arrive in the small California town of Temecula, Don mobilizes the local strippers, hires an obnoxious dee-jay, DJ Request (Craig Robinson of “The Pineapple Express”), who refuses to play anything that anybody requests, plants a gigantic inflatable gorilla atop the dealership, and a schedules appearance from the brother of a celebrity vocalist. They have to sell around 200 cars during the July fourth weekend. Matters are complicated somewhat by Selleck’s family, particularly his daughter, Ivy Selleck (Jordana Spiro of “From Dusk Till Dawn 3”), who is dating another car dealer in town, Paxton Harding (Ed Helms of “The Hangover”). In fact, she is Paxton’s fiancée, but this doesn’t dissuade Don from going after her and likewise. Meanwhile, Paxton’s father Stu Harding (Alan Thicke of “Alpha Dog”) wants to buy Selleck Motors so that his son can have a place to rehearse for his boy band. Don persuades Selleck not to sell, even promising him a night in the sack with Brent. Of course, Brent is happy with the prospect of such a rendezvous.

Meanwhile, Don and Ivy hit it off and she wants to learn more about him. Like most movie heroes, Don has a skeleton in his closet and he hasn’t exorcised this demon. Don lost one of his best salesmen, McDermott (Will Ferrell), during a car stunt gone wrong. McDermott dived out of a plane dressed like Abraham Lincoln and when he pulled the ripcord to his parachute, dildos flew out. Meanwhile, on the ground in the back of a car, Don is having sex with a woman in the back seat when he discovers that he has the parachute. McDermott dies and Don still feels the guilt. Eventually, Don and the ghost of McDermott with two female African-American vocalists in robes visit him and they straighten everything out.

Meanwhile, Don has abandoned his team because he feels so guilty about McDermott, but Selleck’s sales staff pulls together and they manage to sell every car on the lot, except for a sports car that was one of the many used on the “Smoky and the Bandit” movie that Selleck managed to acquire. Stu and Paxton come to take the keys to the car lot because the sports car is still on the lot. By this time, Don has gotten back and he manages to sell the vehicle to Paxton after he convinces him that he can use it as a prop in his boy band act. At the same time, another subplot concerns one of Selleck’s car dealers, Blake (Vince Vaughn look-alike Jonathan Sadowski of the new “Friday the 13th”) whose father left his mother and she had to raise him alone. Blake’s moves after he makes a successful car sale are an exact imitation of Don’s moves. Furthermore, Don hasn’t been in Temecula in for more than 20 years and Blake is 21, so Don imagines that Blake is his son. As it turns out, Blake isn’t his son, but that doesn’t keep Don from adopting him when he marries Ivy at the conclusion of “The Goods.” The epilogue informs us that Don and Ivy split up after two years and Blake moved on. While all this is going on, Babs has the hots for Selleck’s 10-year old son Peter Selleck (Rob Riggle of “The Hangover”) who has a pituitary gland problem so that he looks like a 30-year old man with a 10-year old trapped in his body. Babs stops selling cars and goes to work at a boys counseling school where Peter is set to enroll.

If this description of the plot doesn’t dissuade you from wasting your time on “The Goods,” then you may actually like this numbskull comedy.

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