You must look elsewhere for "The Goods"

by Eric Melin on August 14, 2009

in Print Reviews

From the quick-cut opening scenes in “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard,” it’s obvious what director Neal Brennan has in mind. He’s hoping that the lightning-fast pace of the movie will cover up for the fact that nothing about it is neither fresh nor funny.

On paper, casting Jermey Piven (the fast-talking Hollywood super agent Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage”) as an aggressive, womanizing used car salesman sounds perfect. What “The Goods” may be best remembered for, though, is how good it makes the writers of “Entourage” look.

the goods piven schaalOne comment I love is when people watch a really funny movie and they say “Oh, that whole movie was probably improvised!” This may be partially true, but even for a film like “Borat” or “Waiting for Guffman,” there wouldn’t be a movie without the writers. (Almost as proof, “Borat” was even nominated for a screenplay Oscar.)

Piven is a very funny actor and his ability to spout off pithy one-liners with the confidence of a pit bull uniquely positions him in the current world of comedy. But with an asinine script by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson, his talent becomes an empty shtick that quickly becomes annoying.

The deeply buried vulnerability that makes Ari Gold oddly likable doesn’t exist in “The Goods.” Instead, Piven is saddled with a lame backstory about a former partner’s tragic death (by selling–how wacky?!), something about a lost son, a thoroughly forced romantic subplot, and a series of awful and increasingly desperate stabs at raunchy humor.

the goods piven koechnerThe film’s biggest failure? In a movie that purports to be all about selling at any cost, there is an alarming lack of actual salesmanship or interesting technique. At least in the 2005 satire “Thank You for Smoking,” Aaron Eckhart’s Big Tobacco spokesperson had an amazing talent for spin. Piven’s salesman-for-hire Don Ready doesn’t come up with one convincing or funny argument for a sale in the entire film.

Hell, even when the down-on-their-luck salesman of Selleck Motors (the company Don is there to save) start moving vehicles, all Brennan does is cut to a triumphant montage: It’s all cheering, holding hands up high, and ringing the sales bell. We don’t even know what exactly it is Don taught them to turn their business around! (Or did that also happen in a vague montage?)

the goods jeong napier haleIf there was one way this film might have succeeded despite all its other failures, this would have been it. Show us some insight into the how and why of “hard” salesman. Don’t just keep reminding us how badass they are. Let us go behind the scenes; let us see all the dirty tricks and techniques. There has to be more to “hard selling” than merely starting a car at a higher price and letting the customer think they’ve bargained you down.

I did reference all its other failures in that last paragraph, so let me just compile a quick list:

Wasted talent
Brennan co-created “Chappelle’s Show.” What’s worse: Ed Helms and Craig Robinson from “The Office,” Tony Hale from “Arrested Development,” Rob Riggle and Kristen Schaal from “The Daily Show,” David Koechner from “Anchorman,” Ken Jeong from “Knocked Up,” and Will Ferrell himself (in a cameo) are all spectacularly unfunny for the entire 90-minute running time.

Degraded talent
James Brolin is reduced to playing gay for laughs, constantly coming onto Koechner in the most routine ways possible, and even sporting a huge boner unnecessarily for a failed attempt at a cheap laugh. Veteran actor Charles Napier is reduced to playing racist for laughs, playing a dumber version of the same crazed war veteran we’ve seen in every bad comedy since the late 70s. But wait, there’s …

the goods helms brolinEven more outdated cliches!
Besides the fact that the premise is a rip-off of 1980′s “Used Cars,” Helms is in a “man” band—a three-man singing and dancing trio modeled after the boy band craze of … the late 90s. Way to keep current with your parodies, gents. Maybe in the sequel, you could poke fun at grunge.

Mean-spirited for no reason
At least in “Bruno,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s flamboyantly aggressive uber-stereotyped gay behavior forced us to confront our own prejudices. The caricatures that inhabit “The Goods” go for the easiest, safest, and most insulting punchlines while pretending to be edgy by adding raunch. Just because you throw in some breasts and a couple of mismatched sex partners doesn’t mean you’re dangerous. In fact, it’s the lamest kind of safe.

Even the end-credit “where are they now” character updates are uninspired
It’s the final nail in the coffin of this desperate comedy: We get terribly unfunny onscreen text for just under 10 characters you couldn’t care less about, and each one is less funny than the one that preceded it. It’s ironic, since earlier this summer, Ed Helms also starred in “The Hangover,” which utilized the end credits to greater comedic effect than any other movie in recent memory.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reed August 14, 2009 at 8:05 am

I was waiting for you to reference “Used Cars.” I think that may be one of the most underrated movies of all time. It’s freaking hilarious. Sounds like this film simply serves to tarnish its legacy more than anything else…

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2 Reed August 14, 2009 at 8:05 am

I was waiting for you to reference “Used Cars.” I think that may be one of the most underrated movies of all time. It’s freaking hilarious. Sounds like this film simply serves to tarnish its legacy more than anything else…

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3 Eric Melin August 14, 2009 at 10:15 am

Yeah, I can’t believe it didn’t make it into the review! I kind of referenced it in the capsule on the front page: “Jeremy Piven stars in a desperate comedy about a hard-livin’ car salesman who looks like he fell out of 1979, which is the last year a comedy like this would have been considered remotely funny.”

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4 Eric Melin August 14, 2009 at 10:15 am

Yeah, I can’t believe it didn’t make it into the review! I kind of referenced it in the capsule on the front page: “Jeremy Piven stars in a desperate comedy about a hard-livin’ car salesman who looks like he fell out of 1979, which is the last year a comedy like this would have been considered remotely funny.”

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5 Eric Melin August 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

Oops, I did mention it. Must have misread your comment. You were saying that you were waiting me to reference it and I DID. Duh. Sorry.

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6 Eric Melin August 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

Oops, I did mention it. Must have misread your comment. You were saying that you were waiting me to reference it and I DID. Duh. Sorry.

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7 Reed August 14, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I blame the person who wrote comment #1 for the confusion. He wasn’t clear. Anyway, Used Cars is a fucking great movie!

Great video at the bottom of this posting:
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2008/09/unyielding-commissioning-defends-urban.html

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8 Reed August 14, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I blame the person who wrote comment #1 for the confusion. He wasn’t clear. Anyway, Used Cars is a fucking great movie!

Great video at the bottom of this posting:
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2008/09/unyielding-commissioning-defends-urban.html

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9 Shane August 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I am willing to forgive Jeremy Piven because he is one of my favorites and frankly, he’s the bright spot of that movie (along with Hahn), even if he only really “sells” one car.

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10 Shane August 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I am willing to forgive Jeremy Piven because he is one of my favorites and frankly, he’s the bright spot of that movie (along with Hahn), even if he only really “sells” one car.

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11 shannon hood August 14, 2009 at 8:46 pm

My husband tried to convince me that I didn’t like the movie so much because it is more of a “guys” movie. Therefore I feel validated that you held many of the same views. I did find Will Ferrells cameo funny, though. ‘Cause I still have a bit o’ jackass in me.

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12 shannon hood August 14, 2009 at 8:46 pm

My husband tried to convince me that I didn’t like the movie so much because it is more of a “guys” movie. Therefore I feel validated that you held many of the same views. I did find Will Ferrells cameo funny, though. ‘Cause I still have a bit o’ jackass in me.

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13 Steven Gear August 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I guess you know you’ve made it as a critic when you can’t enjoy a movie as fun as this. I was at the same screening as the reviewer and everyone in the theatre was laughing nonstop. Critics should stop trying to analyze movies to death and try to enjoy them for what they are.

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14 Steven Gear August 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I guess you know you’ve made it as a critic when you can’t enjoy a movie as fun as this. I was at the same screening as the reviewer and everyone in the theatre was laughing nonstop. Critics should stop trying to analyze movies to death and try to enjoy them for what they are.

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15 Eric Melin August 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Steven- I understand everybody’s opinion of the stuffy film critic that can’t enjoy a dumb comedy, but the fact is, in this case, it just isn’t true. If we were at the same screening, then I’d characterize the laughs I heard as the kind of low chuckle you get because you want to laugh so badly even though the material is not that funny. Either way, I didn’t write this review from the perspective of the audience I saw it with, I wrote it from my perspective. And I feel like I’ve been pretty specific and clear about why this movie was lazy and desperate. You should expect more out of your comedies.

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16 Eric Melin August 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Steven- I understand everybody’s opinion of the stuffy film critic that can’t enjoy a dumb comedy, but the fact is, in this case, it just isn’t true. If we were at the same screening, then I’d characterize the laughs I heard as the kind of low chuckle you get because you want to laugh so badly even though the material is not that funny. Either way, I didn’t write this review from the perspective of the audience I saw it with, I wrote it from my perspective. And I feel like I’ve been pretty specific and clear about why this movie was lazy and desperate. You should expect more out of your comedies.

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17 chris tackett August 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

thanks for saving me $10. was thinking of going to see this tonight, but knew from the trailer and one clip i saw earlier this week that it looked…off. this review summarizes what i thought was wrong with even the short amount that i saw. will catch it on netflix eventually just out of curiosity.

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18 chris tackett August 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

thanks for saving me $10. was thinking of going to see this tonight, but knew from the trailer and one clip i saw earlier this week that it looked…off. this review summarizes what i thought was wrong with even the short amount that i saw. will catch it on netflix eventually just out of curiosity.

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19 Stryker August 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

I agree with everything you have here Eric, but there was one small shining light in the film which you don’t even seem to mention in the review. Ving Rhames. I hated this movie to death and found Piven to be the worst part unfortunately. But usually when Rhames was on screen I gave out a chuckle or two.

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20 Stryker August 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

I agree with everything you have here Eric, but there was one small shining light in the film which you don’t even seem to mention in the review. Ving Rhames. I hated this movie to death and found Piven to be the worst part unfortunately. But usually when Rhames was on screen I gave out a chuckle or two.

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21 Mike December 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm

This film was so funny that i’m still laughing. If you don’t think this was funny and you feel that it was lazy and tried too hard to be funny then u need to pull that stick out of your ass and lighten up. “You should expect more out of your comedies.” Seriously, who the hell do you think you are? Stop worrying about who is gonna be offended and enjoy it. And what are the comedies that you find not lazy and desperate? The hangover? That movie wasn’t even as close to being as funny as The Goods.

Steven gear said it best, “I guess you know you’ve made it as a critic when you can’t enjoy a movie as fun as this.” Film critics need to get off their fat lazy asses and get a real job. Maybe then they will stop over analyzing movies and forcing their opinions on to other people.

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22 Mike December 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm

This film was so funny that i’m still laughing. If you don’t think this was funny and you feel that it was lazy and tried too hard to be funny then u need to pull that stick out of your ass and lighten up. “You should expect more out of your comedies.” Seriously, who the hell do you think you are? Stop worrying about who is gonna be offended and enjoy it. And what are the comedies that you find not lazy and desperate? The hangover? That movie wasn’t even as close to being as funny as The Goods.

Steven gear said it best, “I guess you know you’ve made it as a critic when you can’t enjoy a movie as fun as this.” Film critics need to get off their fat lazy asses and get a real job. Maybe then they will stop over analyzing movies and forcing their opinions on to other people.

Reply

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