Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 25, 2009)
After years as a supporting/character actor – with good success, especially on Entourage - Jeremy Piven attempts to leap to comedic leading man status with 2009’s The Goods: Live Hard – Sell Hard. Piven plays Don Ready, a “mercenary” who comes into flailing car businesses and helps them move units.
Desperate to save his dealership, Ben Selleck (James Brolin) calls Ready and gets the mercenary’s team to his lot. Ready doesn’t arrive without controversy, however, as Selleck’s daughter Ivy (Jordana Spiro) doesn’t approve of Ready’s methods. We see Ready’s efforts to do his job, overcome the catastrophe of their visit to Albuquerque, get to know the man who may be his long-lost son, and maybe even woo Ivy.
If you ever watch Goods, try not to remember this synopsis. It acts as a loose framework because the flick really doesn’t come with much of a plot. The movie is nothing more than 89 minutes of sub-plots, really. It’s jam-packed with threads and gag ideas that make it feel over-stuffed with under-cooked ideas.
Essentially this makes Goods nothing more than multiple gags in search of direction – direction that director Neal Brennan can’t provide. I’m surprised to see that anyone actually claims to have directed the film; it’s put together in such a random, incoherent way that I’m not sure I believe anyone took charge. Maybe “Neal Brennan” is a pseudonym for “six drunken chimps”, as I think a sextet of simians could’ve done just as well.
Goods is the Triumph of the Supporting Actor. I already noted that Piven has made a career in that position, and virtually all of the film’s other performers fall into the same category. Ving Rhames, Ed Helms, David Koechner, Craig Robinson, and a slew of others crop up here. It’s a flick packed with the supporting folks from the worlds of Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow.
That’s an abundance of talent, but no one – not even Piven – seems able to take the bull by the horns and drive the train. (Ow – mixed metaphors!) Piven and his woeful hairpiece do their best to give the film some spirit and direction, but it just doesn’t work. Piven has a lot of talent, but as a lead actor, he doesn’t show the requisite charisma.
The lack of leadership at the top becomes more obvious when producer Will Ferrell makes his inevitable cameo. (I feared that this might be a spoiler, but come on – if Ferrell’s a producer, you should know he’ll show up on screen as well.) Ferrell doesn’t get much of a role for his small part, but he actually delivers some laughs from his silly scene.
To be sure, a few other amusing bits emerge across the flick’s 89 minutes. For instance, I like the sequence in which saleswoman Babs (Kathryn Hahn) manipulates a horny customer into a purchase. A handful of additional chuckles emerge, but we don’t get enough to flesh out 89 minutes of movie.
Not nearly enough, to be honest, especially given the relentlessly hyperactive nature of the film. Goods can’t stand to go more than 20 to 30 seconds without a gag, and it often tries to pack more than one in at the same time. The flick seems much longer than 89 minutes, as its pacing wears out the viewer before long.
But not because the viewer’s exhausted from all the laughing. The Goods isn’t a truly awful film, as its talented cast ensures that it boasts at least some minor charms. Unfortunately, those pleasures aren’t sufficient to make it a good piece of entertainment. Too much of the flick fizzles.