Temecula seems to be synonymous with Milton’s Paradise Lost. At least that’s the impression you get from Neal Brennan’s The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, which reminds me of the “Beavis & Butthead” show, minus the scathing sociopolitical commentary.
Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) is a man who, as the name is undoubtedly meant to imply, was born ready… to sell. So adept is his team at selling that they once pulled off the Nigerian Buyback scam. It differs only slightly from the Nigerian 419 scam. Puzzled? Not to worry. This film doesn’t make a lick of sense.
One minute an old man is harassing a couple buying a car, the next a young Asian-American car salesman exclaims, “I feel like a smurf jizzed in my face,” after a money parcel explodes ink while the customer drives off with the car. Enter Don, who is recruited by Ben Selleck (James Brolin) of Selleck Motors. Perhaps the only thing that does make sense about this film is that name. It sounds like a car salesman name. Sorry Tom.
Don’s business card says it all, literally—”I move cars, motherfucker.” He has a team of spin doctors who assist him, including Brent Gage (David Koechner), Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn, who, judging from her lines, might as well be related to Jessica) and Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames, the human sight gag).
What follows can only be described as a series of disconnected vignettes of escalating vulgarity building up to a shoehorned plot revolving around, of all things, Don’s insecurity. It all stems from a freak accident involving Don’s business partner, Will Ferrell in an uncredited role. The nature of the mishap, described only as a “bizarre gardening accident,” seems to be lifted from the fate of drummer John “Stumpy” Pepys of the incompetent, albeit consistently incompetent, band Spinal Tap. Replace farming implements with sex toys and you get the idea. No? Neither did I. But Ferrell’s cameo is indeed the funniest moment of the film. And that’s all this movie is, funny moments without a narrative to string them together, unlike The Hangover earlier this summer.
The tortured-soul-guides-a-group-of-ragtag-idiots comedic plot is recycled here from so many movies it’s hard not to call this film a bastard child. MTV Networks and the Wayans brothers watch out. Paternity suits may be served upon you shortly when this film drops like a neutron bomb. Do you loathe the phrase “ragtag group” as much as I do?
There are definitely funny moments to the film, especially Babs working her vile magic while they attempt to show down Stu Harding (Alan Thicke), who offers to buy the ailing car dealership from Ben. One complication is that Stu’s son Paxton (Ed Helms) is marrying Ivy Selleck (Jordana Spiro). Once the plot materializes, or dematerializes depending on how you look at it, the race is on to sell every car off the lot within three, or four or… I dont know how many days. I lost track somewhere after Dick Lewiston (Charles Napier doing his best, still mediocre, R. Lee Ermey impression) incites a riot at a concert on the lot that features not Bo Bice (whoever the hell that is) but his brother.
Of Mr. Piven we can say that the man is talented and he tried, really tried, to save this film. Alas, he can’t rescue this beached whale… or guppy, as whale would imply there were some heft to the story. And Mr. Rhames, finding himself again (as in Striptease, among other films) in a comedic role to play against his menacing appearance, extols the virtues of making love—never having done it. Oh he’s had sex, with thousands—maybe even dozens—of women. But he has never made love to one. It’s mildly amusing when he discovers that sex is more fun.
There’s also a running gag involving their hired entertainment, DJ Request (Craig Robinson) who—surprise—turns down nearly every request asked of him and instead spites the sales people with contrarian selections of his own, while the camera zooms in to close up for a brief, surreal soliloquy. It’s really unfortunate when this is the character with the greatest potential in the entire film. I wonder if we shall see him again. No, I don’t.
The story, characters and plot are so incomprehensible, and yet the concept here isn’t all that complicated. It’s just been edited and shot haphazardly. Nothing fits together from one scene to the next. Even the cinematography befuddled me. Static, wide shots of the group during a pep talk inexplicably use a handheld which wobbles mid-shot… twice. Did the studio put so little faith in this snowball of ineptitude that the filmmakers couldn’t even afford a tripod? Was the entire budget exhausted casting Mr. Piven to buoy this turd? Were the (two) writers and (three) producers drunk when they concocted this mess? I certainly hope so.
The Goods • Dolby® Digital surround sound in select theatres • Running Time: 90 Minutes • MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material. • Distributed by Paramount Vantage