Sometimes a movie just isn't funny. Period. Not much more to be said than that. It's not even not funny in a particularly spectacular way. It's not too offensive or too dumb or anything that distinguishes it. It just doesn't make me laugh.
Such a movie is The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, a movie that hopes to capitalize on Jeremy Piven's motormouth reputation from Entourage. It's a vain hope, but still, credit to hope; then again, this movie actually makes me appreciate the writing on Entourage, and there is something evil about that.
In The Goods, Piven plays Don "The Goods" Ready, a used car salesman for hire. That's the high concept here, that Don leads a band of huckster gunmen that ailing mom and pop auto dealerships call in to save their business from being ground under the ambitions of the rich and successful. In this case, Ben Selleck (veteran actor James Brolin) is about to have the family business foreclosed on by the bank, in which case milquetoast rival Stu Harding (Alan Thicke) will swoop down and take the property so he can give it to his delusional son (Ed Helms, The Hangover) for rehearsal space for his "man band," Big Ups. (It's like a boy band, but everyone is over thirty--and that's age, not IQ.) That son, Paxton, is also engaged to Selleck's daughter Ivy (Jordana Spiro), so if you can't guess that Don is going to make it his mission to save daddy's business to get in Ivy's pants, then maybe you can be the fourth member of Big Ups.
That's not the only love connection to be had between the Sellecks and Don's mercenaries either. The group's sole female member, the buxom and horny Babs (Kathryn Hahn), wants to mount #1 son Peter (former Daily Show-correspondent Rob Riggle), despite the fact that he's only ten years old and it's a pituitary problem that has given him the body of an ex-Marine. And, surprise, surprise, filling out the homophobe quotient for a manly man's comedy, daddy Selleck has eyes on the chubby bald guy (Anchorman's David Koechner). How icky! If that kind of thing strikes you funny, then maybe you'll want to see The Goods in between frat parties this weekend; if not, stay home, because that's about as good as The Goods gets.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is the film debut of director Neal Brennon, who previously was a writer and director on Chappelle's Show. It was written by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson, whose only previous credit is something called Balls Out, where apparently Seann William Scott plays tennis, most likely in between pedophile gags and "no, man, it's cool" gay jokes. (Seriously, it's getting old. We know all you funny guys are straight, okay? Get over it.) The concept for The Goods is not so bad. The idea is that this is like The Magnificent Seven of used-car-salesman movies, that Don and his crew (rounded out by Ving Rhames, plus a cameo by Will Ferrell, who also produced) go in where they are most needed, and though the badasses are more rough and tumble than the good local yokels, the people they help come to like them. Except these guys are only badasses if you think eating breakfast at a strip club makes you way cool. Which likely means you just aren't old enough to legally enter a strip club.
Not that The Goods was a particularly unctuous movie or anything. As I said at the outset, it actually doesn't distinguish itself as being so brutally bad that watching it is painful. In fact, the one nice thing I would say about it is that everyone involved does appear to be giving it their all. A lot of effort is being put up on the screen, and the film is quite earnest in its desperation. The Goods really, really wants to be liked. But, like a desperate guy in a bar who can't face another night home alone, the harder The Goods tries, the more obvious the ploy. There's a reason that man is sleeping alone, and there is a reason no one in the theatre is laughing.
Back in 1980, Robert Zemeckis made a movie called Used Cars that was about a couple of guys trying to save an auto lot from going under and being taken over by a slimy rival. It starred Kurt Russell and Jack Warden, and I'd wager that quite a lot of critics are going to be dropping that movie's name into their reviews of The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. That's because Used Cars is dark, edgy, and hilarious. It's everything The Goods wants to be and is not. Instead of spending cash on this clunker this weekend, go and rent Zemeckis' movie instead. You'll get a lot more mileage out of it. That's a promise.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.