Friday, September 04, 2009

494 - The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard review

“The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” is one of the most awkwardly titled mainstream releases in some time, a trait that extends into the film itself. The jokes are there and quite a few are pretty funny, but there’s a reluctance about it, as if good ideas were recognized, toyed with, and then cast aside before they were screwed up. A lot of comedies these days go way overboard, but despite the dirtiness here, it feels restrained.

Jeremy Piven stars as a “mercenary” car salesman called in to revive failing dealerships. He has a whole team of car salesmen at his disposal; there’s David Koechner as his reliable loudmouth lout, Kathryn Hahn as a sexually ravenous saleswoman, and Ving Rhames, who scores the most laughs per line as a sex fiend who informs us that he has “69’d, 89’d, and 114’d.” Piven’s team arrives in California to help a sagging dealership owned by a closeted patriarch (James Brolin) sell over 200 cars in several days before the lot goes bust. Love strikes in one form or another for all, perhaps most notably for Hahn, who falls in love with the owner’s 10-year-old son (Rob Riggle), a man-child with a growth hormone disorder.

Director Neal Brennan, responsible for a good chunk of college kid tin god “Chapelle’s Show,” seems to know more about working his actors than his material. Despite Piven’s awesome television presence falling just short of translating to big screen dazzle, he’s sympathetic and refuses to play the asshole we expect from an actor whose career performance is Ari Gold on “Entourage.”

The supporting cast, which also includes good work from Ed Helms, Charles Napier, and Tony Hale (among others) ads significant value to the sale, but too many setups with potential, such as Rhames’ first attempt at true lovemaking, seem ready to burst but rarely manifest into something great. On the surprising side, Hahn’s attraction to what is mentally a 10-year-old is handled with admirable restraint, though I wouldn’t be caught off guard if the DVD release was less concerned with propriety.

Elevating the film from mediocrity to near-miss are a few killer gags, such as a running gag about a DJ who refuses to honor the wishes of his listeners (DJ Request). I imagine that many will be pleased to see that Will Ferrell makes an extended cameo, and though he sleepwalks through it, the premise alone is good for a chuckle. In the small assortment of car salesman comedies, Robert Zemeckis’ 1980 minor classic “Used Cars” remains the best on the lot.

On a final, more serious note, I have a rule for aspiring filmmakers of all stripes: humorous post-scripts at the end are never, ever funny. No, not even the awesome one you thought of.

2.5 out of 5

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