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‘The Goods’ is a summer guilty pleasure

POSTED: August 12, 2009 10:30 p.m.
/Paramount

From left, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Jeremy Piven and Ving Rhames star in "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard," a comedy about selling used cars. The over-the-top antics fit well in this summer guilty pleasure comedy.

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Everybody could use a good laugh these days, and humor right now seems all the more fun if we feel we’re getting away with something. In other words, it’s a great time for a guilty pleasure comedy.

“The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” might be the most pleasing (and guiltiest) guilty pleasure movie all year.
This half-baked farce about a team of mercenary used-car salesmen is crude, sloppy and over-the-top, and oddly enough those are good things in this case.

Ben Selleck (James Brolin) has sold used cars for 40 years, but his family business has reached the brink of bankruptcy. Perhaps that is because some of his salesmen lack any confidence, like Wade (Tony Hale) and Teddy (Ken Jeong), while others, like Dick (Charles Napier), snort coke in their offices and attack customers.

So what is a desperate car lot owner to do? Call in a team of ringers from out of town.

Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) is the Old-West gunslinger of the used-car world. Like drifters on the high plains, he and his team bounce from place to place, working as hired guns who cruise onto the lot and hard-sell the business out of financial disaster.

Don’s lifestyle is lonely, though, and he still struggles to cope with a previous job that went wrong. He and his crew come to Ben’s rescue, and in the process Don develops a love interest in Ben’s daughter Ivy (Jordana Spiro). He must compete for Ivy’s affection against her fiance Paxton (Ed Helms), who fronts a boy-band despite being in his mid-30s.

Don’s entire sales team similarly face their own emotional travails. Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames) has had plenty of wild, kinky sex but has never “made love” to a woman. Enter college student/exotic dancer Heather (Noureen Dewulf), who might help him remedy that ailment.

Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn) is the tough-talking female of the group who seems to have bigger cojones than the men. She encounters forbidden love when she becomes infatuated with Selleck’s son Peter (Rob Riggle), who because of a medical condition is a 10-year-old boy with the body of a 30-year-old man.

The sanest one of this wild bunch is Brent Gage (David Koechner), but throughout the film he fights off Ben’s consistent sexual propositions. Yes, that’s right: Mr. Barbara Streisand tries repeatedly to go on the down-low with David Koechner.

The whole movie is absurd, not to be taken seriously at any time. It even manages, thanks to an extended conversation that takes place during simultaneous lap dances, to poke fun at its own vulgarity.

It becomes so ridiculous and politically incorrect that we can’t help but laugh. It’s so wrong, it’s right.

Much of the comedy comes simply from watching the cast enjoy themselves. It’s undeniably hilarious seeing Brolin play so radically against type. Napier takes his racist, angry veteran to such an extreme he makes Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino” look tolerant. The entire cast has a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun with the outlaw image and with stereotypes of used-car salesmen.

It’s all impure, adulterated fun and couldn’t be any less sophisticated. If you don’t like crude comedy, stay very far away.

I’m not proud of it, but I laughed my butt off.

It’s also a movie of big hits and wide misses. The jokes come at us in rapid fire — some leave us bellowing laughter and some fall completely flat.

So is this movie a lemon or a steal? Neither, really. It isn’t exactly a clunker, but I wouldn’t shell out too much cash for it, either.

(Sorry, I avoided that joke as long as I possibly could.) “The Goods” is bound to be much more satisfying at less than sticker price (somebody stop me!).

Catch it as a matinee or a rental.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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