Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (The)
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (29th December 2009).
The Film

Imagine, if you will, that there’s a special machine that allows you to insert popular fictional characters into any film of your choosing. Now imagine that someone has put Ari Gold, “Entourage’s (2004-present) fast-talking agent to the stars, in place of Kurt Russell in “Used Cars” (1980). That’s more or less what “The Goods: Live Hard. Sell Hard.” (2009) is all about. Now, the plot isn’t exactly like “Used Cars”, but that’s really the only other used car salesman movie I can remember right now. But this film uses the same general principals… except without ANY of the humor. The writers seem to have some problem whereby they assume that if they just throw out enough wacky & zany crap (because that’s what it is, I can’t call it humor) something is bound to stick and resonate with an audience.

But nothing does. Nothing. The last time I was this utterly stone-faced while watching a comedy was either “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (2007) or whenever Michael Cera was last on screens. This was a painful experience from start to finish; literally nothing even tried to elicit a humorous response from me. No wonder it bombed at the box office, it’s as callow and banal as any film could hope to be.

Ben Selleck (James Brolin) just isn’t moving enough cars on his lot, so he decides he’s got to call in the best: Don Ready (Jeremy Piven). Ready brings along with him a team of “crazy crew of closers” who will stop at nothing to make a sale. Director Neal Brennan allows an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to the comedy hoping that the rapid-fire sight gags and one-liners will leave you in stitches. The level on which he fails is both monumental and embarrassing.

This film is basically a vessel for Jeremy Piven to convey his Ari Gold-brand of humor to a wider audience than HBO permits. Although, to his credit, it seems that just about every character I’ve seen him play acts just like his Ari Gold does. Nevertheless, there’s a fine line between having a cocky, semi-suave Type A personality that works, or coming off like a douchebag with a huge head. Piven falls into the latter category here. It becomes painfully obvious from the first moment we see him on screen that he’s trying FAR too hard to make this character someone people will remember. His ridiculous speech on an airplane about smoking, and the ensuing party, should be considered an early warning that this film is for people below the age where a steady stream of dick and fart jokes are acceptable reasons for a movie to have zero substance. Piven acts like he was given a Tony Montana-sized mountain of cocaine and then set free in front of the camera. It’s painful to watch at times.

The rest of the cast is made up of all the second- and third-tier comedians you’ve seen in just about any Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell-produced film of the last 3 years. All of them, too, are endlessly annoying. And they’re usually funny people. So, that brings me back to the writing. The craptastic duo of Andy Stock and Rick Stempson prove that they don’t know a thing about writing to an actor’s talents. I don’t know how much improvisation was allowed here, but I’m guessing it wasn’t too much considering most of the actors here are infinitely funnier when I’ve seen them improv in other films. Stock and Stempson are both first time writers, so I hope the complete failure of this film at the box office means a quick and painless death for them as a writing team. There are already enough bad writers of comedy working today (I’m looking at you, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer); one less could only be a good thing.

I really expected at least a little more out of director Neal Brennan than this. He was a writer for “Half Baked” (1998), one of the most played out VHS tapes from my high school days, and he directed and wrote many episodes for “Chappelle’s Show” (2003-2006). I always felt like “Chappelle’s Show” was one of the funniest sketch comedy series to hit the scene in a long time. Some of those bits are still just as hilarious and irreverent as they were over 6 years ago. So, it surprised me when nothing struck a chord with me in “The Goods”. Brennan must not have injected much of his humor into the film, or if he did I certainly didn’t see it, because for me to go almost 90 minutes without giving up some heavy laughs is almost unheard of with comedy. Unless, I suppose, it’s something as bad as this.

So, you’re probably asking, did anything shine through for me? Did something crack my lips and give me a chuckle? Surely at least one joke forced me to give the writers a small dose of credit…

Nope. Not a once.

Video

If you’ve been as spoiled with high-definition goodness as much as I have, well… a standard DVD tends to look little better to your eyes than a worn-out VHS tape. There are still some fine standard-definition images out there, don’t get me wrong, but with 4 times less resolution than a Blu-ray it’s hard to compete. It’s even worse, however, when you’re watching a DVD that looks like absolute crap to begin with. “The Goods” arrives on DVD (no Blu-ray release is even planned at this point) with an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen image that, frankly, looks horrific. Colors bleed, everything looks soft, there is little in the way of definition or fine detail; I really can’t say anything good about this release. I’m unsure as to whether this was an intended look, or if the budget was the reason, but as far as DVD goes, this is bad. I’m willing to bet a Blu-ray release would have benefited the picture in many ways, so perhaps if this sells well we can expect one down the road. But if this is all that’s available for now, I’d say unless you really love this movie then the picture quality alone relegates this release to a rental at best.

Audio

Unsurprisingly, the audio here is far from impressive. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track is fairly boring, odd considering this is such a flashy, fast-paced film. Surround speakers never engage the listener; they might as well be dead. The LFE track is anemic and underused. The dialogue is clean, but I think that’d be kind of hard to mess up at this point in the DVD game. It’s approximately 90 minutes of people yelling and selling.
There is also a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French.

Extras

Ironically, the DVD of “The Goods” doesn’t deliver them, as we get NO bonus features. Well, nothing except for a couple of bonus trailers for the following:

- “Shutter Island” runs for 2 minutes and 32 seconds.
- “Wrong Turn at Tahoe” runs for 1 minute and 25 seconds.
- “Road Trip: Beer Pong” runs for 1 minute and 46 seconds.

Overall

I didn’t see “The Goods” in theaters for a reason: I thought it looked terrible. Now, at the very least, I can confirm that suspicion. I’m sure there’s an audience out there that will eat this movie up, but I’m absolutely not part of it. I didn’t find a single joke that worked and when your film has a threadbare plot which hangs exclusively on the comedy bits, well.. you better make sure they’re golden. These weren’t.

The Film: F Video: C- Audio: C Extras: F Overall: D-