The Scoop: 2009 R. Directed by Neal Brennan and starring Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, David Koechner, and Kathryn Hahn.
Summary Capsule: A team of salesmen for hire help to save a struggling dealership. Blue kettle, blue kettle.
Al’s Rating: I could totally see Don Ready booking George Clinton for The Pit.
Al’s Review: I believe somewhere, in a shadowy studio boardroom, there is a hat. And in this hat are little slips of paper with all the world’s different professions listed on them: news reporter, race car driver, stuntman, rock star, etc. Every six months or so, an enterprising young executive pulls a name from that hat and fills in the blanks of their all-purpose comedy script:
__(Proper noun)__ is the _(adjective)_ _(noun-profession)_ in the whole __(location)__. He can __(verb)__ more __(plural noun)__ than any other __(same profession)__. But __(same Proper noun)__ has a problem…
And so on. With apologies to Caryl Churchill, I call these Blue Kettle comedies.
When the blanks are filled, the script is presented to Will Ferrell and the studio asks if he’d like to star in it. In Scenario A, he says “Yes” and the movie goes on to gross a gajillion dollars and inspire countless frat brothers to ascend to new levels of obnoxiousness. In Scenario B, he says “No” (although—what the hell?—he may show up for one or two scenes anyway) and the studio hires someone like John C Reilly or Andy Samburg in the lead, thereby damning it to a quick death at the box office and a near-certain afterlife gathering dust in the corner of a video store, no matter how good or bad it might actually be.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is a perfect example of a ‘Scenario B’ blue kettle comedy. Today’s noun-profession is “car salesman” and our proper noun is “Jeremy Piven.” Piven stars as Don “The Goods” Ready, the ultra-talented, super cynical head of an elite unit of mercenary salespeople brought in to help a struggling local dealership boost it’s sales on Fourth of July weekend. Of course, he immediately falls for the dealer’s daughter, Ivy, who, of course, doesn’t like Don’s slick, freewheeling ways and, of course, is engaged to Paxton Harding, son of the evil rival dealership owner. And, don’t forget, the dealership only has 72 hours to raise enough money to keep their lease. Blue kettle, blue kettle, blue kettle.
It’s enough to write off The Goods and never look back, but, lucky for us, we’re in the presence of Ari Gold himself, Jeremy Piven, who is talented enough to pull this script off in style. JP has had a lot of bad press since he got famous. Rumor has it that he’s turned to the darkside of stardom and become a tantrum-prone primadonna in constant need of pampering and ego stroking. I don’t know how much of that is true or relevant, but the good news is that it hasn’t affected his performance. Even amidst a tremendously talented cast (including Ving Rhames, David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn, Tony Hale, and Ken Jeong), he absolutely carries this movie. He dominates the screen at all times, somehow managing to play Don Ready straight and yet simultaneously wink to the camera in every scene. Personally, I think Piven recognizes he’s in a blue kettle picture and, rather than resign himself to going through the motions, plays it to the hilt instead. Even in the presence of all of the very funny people I mentioned above, he is clearly the reason that The Goods gets elevated out of traditional blue kettle territory and into the realm of something funny, quotable, and worth watching a second time.
That said, I’d feel bad if I left you thinking that you’ll be watching PCU reincarnate. This movie is vulgar. Crass at Superbad levels. Consider yourself warned. Some of the one-liners (usually those being shouted in pain or anger) aren’t nearly as funny as the rest of the script and almost feel shoehorned in just so they would have something to put in the ‘red band’ trailer. There are also a handful of running gags, like Ben Selleck’s not-so-latent-homosexuality, that straight-up aren’t funny. It’s totally possible that they just don’t jibe with my sense of humor, but, when combined with a few sequences that start off hilarious and then go on far too long (I’m looking at you, airplane scene), the movie never quite picks up the speed I wish it did.
As I’m searching for way to end this review, I want to say a quick word about why I’m writing it in the first place. I hadn’t actually planned on reviewing this movie. I watched The Goods, I enjoyed it, and I moved on. Funny thing, though: I appear to be the only one who did–the only one who watched it, the only one who enjoyed it, and the only one who was able to move on afterwards. Not only was it ripped apart by critics when it came out, but now I keep seeing it on the ‘Worst of 2009’ lists that crop up this time of year. Well, dammit, I’m taking a stand. The Goods is funny. Not perfect, but funny. In fact, it might be the funniest movie I saw in theaters all year. Yes, it’s lowbrow. Yes, it’s likely going to offend plenty of interest groups. Yes, it’s cliched top to bottom. In other words, yes, it’s a blue kettle comedy. But it knows it and it revels in it. And I do too. So there.
- Don Ready has awesome business cards.
- I like the Superbad kid.
- Jibby’s other nicknames for Albuquerque: The Duke City; A-Town; Captain Kirk.
- McDermott? (I told you he might show up)
- Don’s ‘wise man’ quote is from Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Economy.”
- “Vehicle,” “Fox on the Run,” and “Dead Puppies Aren’t Much Fun” all in the same movie? Awesome!
- There’s a “You don’t want to know what happened in ‘Querque” jam towards the end of the credits. Funky!
- The Japanese-American Citizens League demanded an apology from the filmmakers due to the “hate crime” scene involving Ken Jeong.
Stewardess Stacy: There’s no smoking on airplanes!
Don: I know. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Don’t worry about it. I’ll be quick.
Stewardess Stacy: Who *are* you?
Don: I’m Don Ready. And I’ve got The Goods.
Don: How much does a polar bear weigh?
Ivy: I have no idea.
Don: Enough to break the ice. Don Ready, nice to meet you.
Paxton: Google it.
Selleck: Man, that is a dark story.
Babs: Yeah, I made it up. Have a great sale everybody!
Don: Okay, uh, we have all just participated in a hate crime.
Brent: Was it a hate crime? Or a freedom crime?
Brent: To sell you must—?
Wade: Confine! Confuse! Conflict!
DJ Request: No one tells DJ Request what to play!
Jibby: I try to tell women all the time: Auto-Listers are like mypsace for serial killers!
Don: Party back on the Hacienda Court! Everyone’s welcome—no guys.
DJ Request: Aaaaaaaaaaaaand… concussion.
Don: So, you’re just going to have sex with me and then leave? This hurts! I guess this must be what women mean when they say “You’re just going to have sex with me and then leave? This hurts!”
Singing Angels: While we’re on the subject: you’re too old for a Facebook page.
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