The Good: It’s always nice to seek David Koechner getting work…
The Bad: Not funny, Not clever, Predictable plot, Universally unlikable characters
The Basics: Not funny, not clever and utterly predictable, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, is another dumb comedy with sex-crazed men who are unethical idiots learning lessons most people get in first grade.
One knows they must seriously be in love when they go to see what their partner wants regardless of how little they themselves want to see it. For me, that is the realm of inane comedies which I’ve pretty much had my fill of in this life. And yet, my partner loves the comedies and when we see a preview that I groan over or a movie poster that leaves me feeling no real sense of intrigue, these are the films I know almost instantly my partner will want me to take her to. In this case, it was The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard and we didn’t even see a preview of it. Instead, we just saw the movie poster and after our disastrous screening of District 9 (reviewed here!), she wanted me to take her to it.
In the case of The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, I actually had a selling point; Jeremy Piven. Piven is a man whose work I’ve enjoyed since pretty much the moment he first popped up in the third season of Ellen as cousin Spence. He was funny with a cold wit and a strong knack for irony. While he seems to have achieved a lot of recognition now on Entourage, I’ll always think of him as Spence because the role was so very distinctive. Unfortunately, as he returns to films – he has never truly left, but it has been a while (if ever) since he has been top billed – he comes with a role that is so much less distinguished as to have the opposite effect. I suspect an entire franchise of films could be made out of Don Ready, but Piven would never truly be associated with this role.
When used car salesman Dick Lewiston goes off the deep end with some customers at Selleck Motors, lot owner Ben Selleck grudgingly admits to his staff that they need to bring in a gun-for-hire to turn things around or else the showroom will go bust. Don Ready, known in such circles as “The Goods” is given a call by Ben and he goes from Arizona to Temecula (CA) to help turn things around for Selleck Motors. Don and his team of mercenary car salesmen – Brent, Jibby, and Babs – arrive to try to sell as many cars as they can for Ben over a single weekend. The goal is two hundred cars over the Fourth Of July weekend and Don and his team seem up for the challenge.
Complications almost immediately ensue when “The Goods” (Don) begins to fall for Ivy, Ben’s daughter who is predictably smoking hot. Can Don give up the lifestyle of drinking, casual sex and fast talking to become an actualized adult who might be worthy of her attention? Well . . . who cares?
The fundamental problem with The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is that none of the characters are terribly likable and most of the humor is so generic as to be either overdone or have nothing to do with the somewhat unique setting the film is set in. Sure, there are plenty of jokes that can come out of being a used car salesman, but when the movie opens with jokes about “coloreds” and a man randomly punching a customer and is followed by a less-than-clever bit about a car being bought using stolen funds, the chance to capitalize on the setting is almost immediately lost. Instead, the humor treads toward the drunken fratboy type humor that characterizes many adult comedies aimed at men these days. Here is yet another posse of smarmy men who have no emotional depth and take no responsibility for their actions.
So, Don is more of an archetype than an actual character and the lines that come out of his mouth are just that; lines. Don is less a cohesive being than he is a series of one-liners which flop out of his lips and garner a smile at their best. Add to that, there is no real resonance between him and his associates. So, why Brent and Jibby hang out with Don is as much a mystery at the end as it is at the beginning. They work together, but given their individual strengths at swindling potential customers, the need for a team effort is minimal and one suspects that they are only together because it is that type of buddy comedy and they are the buddies.
As far as the plot goes, there are no real surprises there. After the set-up and the arrival of Don and his men, the film quickly takes a turn into foul-mouthed humor and coke snorting, like some demented Kevin Smith film absent the social commentary or the charm. So when Ivy enters and Don becomes almost instantly attracted to her, there are no surprises. It is That Kind Of Movie where what we think might happen does. And the obvious plot questions like “Does Don save Selleck Motors?” and “Does Don get the girl?” become inconsequential amid the rapid-fire of jokes. We don’t even care about the plot – though this is a remarkably predictable film in that regard – because the plot is almost an accessory to the cinematic murder we are witnessing where random lines are thrown around.
Truth be told, there are some funny moments in the movie, but they are the non sequitors, like the cameo appearance by Will Ferrell. The humor that comes from the random elements is good, but the bulk of it could have been done in virtually any other comedy. Still, the movie has a few moments that garner laughs (sadly almost none of them involve Piven speaking).
In this way, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard makes good use of its setting. Like some vastly superior comedies, this film utilizes the parade of new faces on screen – in this case the potential customers who come looking at cars – as a medium to make jokes. The humor is largely comprised of jokes spoken to whomever is passing through and they are non sequitors that have little to do with the rest of the film and only serve to show how funny Andy Stock and Rick Stempson are (or imagine themselves to be). But what the writers fail to do is string together an even remotely interesting narrative in the process and as a result, the movie seems more like a visual jokebook than anything else and it falls flat.
In addition to the pathetic lack of original plot, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard suffers because the characters are generic as well and the acting is mostly typecasting of the performers. Jeremy Piven plays Don like a smarmy version of Spence with much of the same banter-like delivery of dialogue as his Entourage character. Having just recently seen Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, it is easy to see how David Koechner ended up in this cinematic trainwreck; his character is remarkably similar to the one he played in the other film and he is used almost identically in this as he was in that (and other movies). It is one thing for an actor to be used well for his comic sensibilities, but Koechner is used to deliver his lines with a strange combination of dryness and over-the-top with the occasional bugging out of his eyes and we get that that is within his range. Give us something new. Unfortunately, this movie does not do that with any frequency.
Similarly, Ving Rhames, Craig Robinson, and Tony Hale are all similarly misused as simply thrust into their roles with little other than prior performances respected. Most of the performers here are simply performing “The Best Of ” as opposed to showing us something new from their repertoire. But given that most of the jokes are centered around the supposed shock value of swearing and the idea of matching people with cars – most of which are defective in one way or another – instead of anything specific or interesting having to do with anything new, simply recycling their performances works.
The result is one of the last summer comedies that may be safely avoided by all adults looking for something – anything – interesting to watch on screen this year and another film that can still be avoided on DVD.
For other works with Kathryn Hahn, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
For other movie reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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