Hollywood's "cash for clunkers" program misfires with The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. It's a car-selling comedy that plays like a backfiring Bentley — a shiny ride that runs in fits and starts, never quite hitting on all cylinders.
The Goods is a Jeremy Piven vehicle, his first big-screen headliner since, what, P.C.U.? But the Entourage agent doesn't bring his A game, making his swaggering, fast-talking salesman Don Ready not quite ready for the spotlight. It's not all his fault. A cast of Hangover comics and folks from the Will Ferrell stable manage some giggles. But this short movie plays looong, thanks to slow-footed direction and editing that doesn't hide the dead spaces between the yuks.
Ready heads a rootless, amoral team of "move the metal" mercenaries, salesfolk who show up at troubled dealerships and clear the lot with their hustle. On that team — the silky-droll Jibby (Ving Rhames), the saucy Babs (Kathryn Hahn of Step Brothers), and Brent "Magic" Gage, the accountant (David Koechner). They live in budget hotels, dine in strip joints (funniest lap-dance scene ever) and jet from city to city "saving" embattled dealerships.
James Brolin is the Temecula, Calif., dealer who summons them, with Ken Jeong (The Hangover) and Charles Napier among his hapless salesmen, and Jordana Spiro as his daughter, who is engaged to the dweeb son (Ed Helms of The Hangover) of a competitor (Alan Thicke). Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express), a strip-joint DJ, will play the tunes that lure the customers.
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Many players make an impression — Napier's racist WWII vet salesman, for instance. Helms' character has delusions of boy band ("man band") fame through his group, Big Ups.
But for a movie that's going for the down and dirty, this one seems lost on the lot. How do they lure and lie to the customers, how do they stay so amped up during marathon sales and all-night parties? This film of Hangover refugees plays like a PG Hangover, even though it's rated R.
The funny people in front of the camera (Ferrell has a tasty cameo) suggest that the real lemons on this lot are behind the camera. Director Neal Brennan (Chapelle's Show) and the screenwriters have a showroom cast and a movie with nothing under the hood.