A film review by Craig J. Koban August 18, 2009

THE GOODS: LIVE HARD. SELL HARD. jjj

2009, R, 89 mins.

 

Don Ready: Jeremy Piven / Jibby Newsome: Ving Rhames / Ben Selleck: James Brolin / 
Brent Gage: David Koechner / Babs Merrick: Kathryn Hahn / Paxton Harding: Ed Helms / Ivy Selleck: Jordana Spiro / Dick Lewiston: Charles Napier / Wade Zooha: Tony Hale / Teddy Dang: Ken Jeong / Peter Selleck: Rob Riggle / Stu Harding: Alan Thicke

Directed by Neal Brennan / Screenplay by Andy Stock & Rick Stempson.

"A-B-C.  A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing.  Always be closing.  ALWAYS BE CLOSING."

- Blake (Alec Baldwin) in "GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS"

 

Commission sales is a sometimes grueling and utterly thankless profession.  It’s also one of the least glamorous and spat on occupations.  It’s tough work.  Damn tough work.  It requires one to project a sense of knowledge, confidence, and understanding with customers if there is any chance at all of making a sale and securing an income.  When your ability to put food on the table and pay the rent is solely predicated on closing a sale…then it sure makes you care about your job that much more. 

The new comedy THE GOODS: LIVE HARD. SELL HARD. is set in the world of used car/commission sales and it is that particular clan of salesmen that are often held in the same low level of worth as politicians and lawyers.  They are sort of like “hustlers”, which may seem like a broad generalization, but it certainly has a grain of truth in regards to some.  Their job is that of a shady propagator: They need to convince their customers that the car they are trying to sell them – warts and all – is a gem of a beauty that will fit their needs and budget like a proverbial glove.  As for the merchandise itself?  It does not really matter.  The car itself could be a worn-out lemon that is barely street legal, but that's redundant.  The men and women that peddle these scraps of dilapidated metal are selling their image and charm – and if they can win unassuming customers over with their killer smiles, enthusiasm, and the “goods” to deliver, then the commission sale is essentially won. 

THE GOODS is a frequently crass, potty mouthed, militantly un-PC, and, yes, an occasionally very funny, hard R-rated comedy that shows an understanding for commission salesmen…even when the film is covered in a infectious glow of unbridled ridiculousness and nonsensical comic lunacy.  It’s kind of an offbeat and cheerfully irreverent homogenization of USED CARS and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on the latter in the way it shows the ruthless determination and double-dealing methods salesman use to score big a pay check.  Just how seedy, corrupt and, let’s face it, efficient are these salesman?  Let’s just say that - in a hilarious opening sequence - we have one of the men using all of his wily and arrogant charisma and clever use of language to convince a stewardess on an airplane why its morally right and American to be able to allow him to smoke on board while in flight.  Not only does this smooth talking slickster convince the stewardess to allow him to light up, but he eventually commanders the entire flight and turns it into an wild party complete with a mariachi band. 

This guy’s good.  Real good.

This confidence-man in question is a professional salesmen named Don “The Goods” Ready, who is played in one of those perfectly tailored, trash talking performances of greasy machismo by the great Jeremy Piven, who has specializes in this type of role with his multiple Emmy-nominated work on HBO’s ENTOURAGE.  Don is not a regular salesman.  No sir.  This guy is a mercenary-like tactician that goes into every sales opportunity with a wild-eyed and battle-ready precision.  Don is such a calculating and intricately verbose man that he could sell snow to an Eskimo.  When’s he’s on his A-game, he’s an unstoppable motor-mouthed force that never loses.   

One thing to note is that he does not sell at any particular car dealership.  Rather, he goes from one dealership to the next with his fearless, resolute, and loyal squadron of fellow salesman that are hired to use their expertise to get them out of a money jam...and then proceed to the next big score.  Don’s partner’s is comprised of the sexy, but tough as nails Babs (Kathryn Hahn), the “money man” Brent (David Koechner) who can get anyone credit, and Jibby (Ving Rhames).  As committed and strong as the group are in their occupations, they are definitely not angels.  When they receive an offer from a struggling car dealership owner in Temecula named Ben Selleck (James Brolin), the only thing stopping them from immediately going to his rescue is fear of missing the last leg of their lap dances at a local strip joint.  The lap dances also coincides with their morning breakfast.  Hmmmm...this is a really convenient joint...an establishment that gives new meaning to words squat and gobble.

Selleck runs a fairly ramshackle car lot that one of Dan's cronies - upon first seeing it - hilariously describes as a “refugee camp for dirty men.”   Some of these men working for the naïve and ignorant Selleck are certainly not cut out for commission sales.  One of them, Dick (played by Charles Napier) is an elderly salesman that enjoys punching out customers and spouting out ethnic slurs against gays, Asians, and just about everyone else that he despises more than he enjoys selling cars.  Another hopeless sales outcast, Teddy (played by Ken Jeong, who was monstrously funny in KNOCKED UP, ROLE MODELS, and recently THE HANGOVER) is so clueless that, at one point, he does not know that the money he just took from a customer – which came in a large and paint tagged bank bag – explodes in his face when he opens it after the customer has merrily sped away with his new car.  Even worse, he is the victim of Dick’s evil glares, seeing as he believes that Teddy started Pearl Harbor, despite the fact that Teddy is Korean and certainly had very little to do with the infamous sneak attack on American soldiers. 

Anyhoo’, Selleck’s dealership is facing some serious financial strains:  First, his beleaguered and ill-prepared crew of salesmen are woefully underperforming.  Secondly, he must sell off all of his cars on the lot over the three day Fourth of July weekend in order to stop the sale of the lot to a greedy, more manipulative, and wealthier car dealer named Stu Harding (played by…yup…Alan Thicke, which has to be his first downright villain role).  Stu has vast ambitions after he buys Don’s lot, one of which is to allow his son, played hilariously by Ed Helms, and his buddies a larger area to practice their musical act.  Helms and his bro-mates have formed a man-band…which essentially is a boy band with men that should in no way whatsoever be in a boy band. 

This sets off the rest of the plot in motion as we see Don and his team whip of Selleck’s salesmen into proper shape so that they can sell off hundreds of cars - in questionable shape - in 72 hours.   The weekend does not go off without a hitch, especially when Don and the rest of the salesmen viciously accost Teddy in a fit of rampant, patriotic fervor before the lot opens (remember: Dick thinks Teddy is a "Jap").  Don tries to defuse the situation quickly as any sharp witted hustler would: “We have all just participated in a hate crime…let’s get our stories straight: Teddy came at us with a samurai sword, a fire extinguisher, and Chinese throwing stars.”  Teddy, as miraculous as it seems, is so impressed with the preposterousness of Don's story that it leads to him ultimately apologizing to the whole group. 

The rest of THE GOODS motors along with that same sense of reckless and carefree comic abandon.  The film has a real undisputed lowbrow zeal for making us laugh via any inane means necessary.  I must admit to giggling often, especially at one subplot that involves the Selleck’s son, played hilariously by THE DAILY SHOW’S Rob Riggle, who is only 10-years-old, despite outwardly appearing like a thirtysomething...Rob Riggle.  The “kid” is revealed as having a very rare pituitary gland issue that makes him look twenty to thirty years older than he is.  No matter, because Babs becomes utterly infatuated with the “boy”, even though she understands that he’s not even a teen.  In her eyes, it's not child abuse, especially when the he looks more than able to fulfill her womanly needs.   

There are several other moments of spirited hilarity.  A specially made Don Ready-helmed car commercial that is used to plug Ben’s dealership is a riot, seeing as it advertises the owner as falsely suffering from "cancer of the nads", which Don hopes will inspire people to rush down and buy cars out of sympathy.  Then there is a very sly sequence involving a riot on the lot that ensues after Eric Bice fails to show up for a big celebrity appearance at the dealership.  Who’s Eric Bice, you may ask?  Well, he’s the brother to American Idol contestant Bo Bice, silly.  I also liked Craig Robinson’s take on a very, very disturbed DJ hired by Don who definitely does not take any – and I mean any – song requests.  Rarely have DJs been so emotionally guarded.

Two scenes in particular are insidious howlers: The first shows how Babs successfully convinces a red-necked pervert that he must buy the clunker that she’s trying to sell him by shrewdly implanting a fantasy in his mind that he’ll need it so that he can drive to her place to take part in a four way sex orgy with her and her friends.  Then there is an unmistakably sidesplitting cameo by Will Ferrell (also the film’s producer) who miraculously gets huge laughs from the most random of words.  No other actor on the planet would be able to make a scene involving a character falling to his death out of an airplane as funny as he does.  “I know,” screams the plummeting Ferrell, “I will roll into an aerodynamic ball and use this dildo to cushion my fall!”  It does not get more comically absurd than that.

Not all of THE GOODS is successful: for every great joke and gag that works there are others that fall stupendously flat.  Then there is also a really dull and monotonous subplot involving Don trying to woe Ed Helm’s pretty girlfriend (played blandly by Jordana Spiro) that is on pure, boring autopilot.  Also lame and more than a bit unnecessary is a creepy running  gag involving the aging Selleck lusting after Brent, who seems to turn him on with minimal fuss (oh…Selleck’s a closeted gay…hardy-har).  Yet, even though the laughs are largely scattered throughout THE GOODS, there is nonetheless enough crazy energy and unrefined and uncompromisingly bawdy guffaws for a moderate recommendation on my part.  THE GOODS never tries to hide away from its façade that it is decidedly lowbrow, silly, and vulgar…but it's agreeable in mild dosages.  For the most part…it had me sold.

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