The summer is almost over and there were plenty of surprises, but few of those surprises were surprise success stories. Most would say that the biggest surprise success of the summer was The Hangover, which broke Beverly Hills Cop’s 25-year-old record as the highest-grossing R-rated comedy. If you ask me, that amazing success has just as much to do with the hilarious film than it does with the severe lack of straight-up adult comedies this summer. Now, as the summer winds down, another contender has entered the fray in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, a comedy that goes for the jugular of political-correctness in hilariously outrageous fashion.
While The Hangover did have plenty of laughs, I can’t remember the last time I laughed harder than when I watched The Goods, nor can I remember a theater as a whole who was collectively laughing just as hard as I was. Lead by Jeremy Piven, who trades in his star-selling Ari Gold on Entourage for the car-selling Don Ready, the film is jam packed with a dream team of comedy heavyweights, all of whom are given ample space to split your proverbial sides. The film starts out in Temecula, California with Ben Selleck (James Brolin) struggling to keep his car lot, Selleck Motors, afloat. His salesmen are inept, as we see when Teddy Dang (Ken Jeong) is rejoicing over a “sale” only to realize he was paid with a bank bag with a dye-pack (FYI, there’s a LOT more hilarity to that scene that they can’t show in the trailer. Wow). With his back against the wall of bankruptcy, Selleck puts in a call to a “mercenary,” Don Ready (Jeremy Piven). Ready and his team have just gotten off a successful job and celebrating in their makeshift home of the Hacienda Courts Hotel, when Ready puts them back in action and on a plane to California to sell some cars. Ready and his crack team of Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames), Brent Gage (David Koechner) and Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn) immediately whip this team of rag-tag salesmen into shape, but Ready hits some snags with the lovely Ivy Selleck, Ben’s daughter and fiancée to Paxton Harding (Ed Helms) whose father Stu (Alan Thicke) wants to buy out Selleck’s business… so Paxton can use it for a rehearsal space for his “man band” (crappy boy band music sung by adult dudes) called Big Ups. And, that’s not even the half of it. Add in Ben Selleck’s closeted gay crush on Brent Gage, Babs’ incredibly inappropriate crush on Selleck’s son Peter (Rob Riggle), a 10-year-old who has a pituitary problem and looks like a 30-year-old, a bigoted elderly salesman named Dick (Charles Napier), who’s always quick with a racial slur and a cranky DJ (Craig Robinson) who is ironically called DJ Request… even though he plays the opposite of what you ask for, and so much god-damn more hilarity – including a hilarious cameo at the end.
I’m not quite sure, with so many amazing comedians on this film, how much of these amazing laughs come from new writers Andy Stock and Rick Stempson (whose only other credits was a recent straight-to-DVD comedy called Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach, starring Seann William Scott), but it doesn’t seem like this was a huge improv-fest here, and Stock and Stempson deserve a lot of credit for just having the balls to write these kinds of things. This is the kind of movie that makes other R-rated comedies like I Love You, Man and The Hangover seem G-rated in comparison. It’s almost like when The Dark Knight got away with a LOT in their PG-13 rating that caused filmmakers like Max Payne’s John Moore to complain about their R-rating, whining about The Dark Knight getting away with murder. Well, it’s kind of like that here, I guess. There isn’t anything exceedingly outrageous that we see here, but they definitely push the envelope to the very edge with their racy (and sometimes racist) humor, and also push the boundaries with the number of raucous bits stacked right on top of each other. Sure, Stock and Stempson do have a few misfires here and there, but, trust me, when you laugh (and it will be OFTEN), you’ll likely laugh harder than you have in awhile. Aside from the random misfires, the only other real beef I have with the movie is that I felt they could’ve done without Jordana Spiro’s Ivy character. She’s the least funny of the crew, which was likely done on purprose and, for a movie that takes so many chances, it’s kind of bizarre to see Stock and Stempson stick such a clichéd girl-hates-boy-then-girl-digs-boy relationship thing here.
Other than that, we get nothing than pure comedy platinum from everyone else involved in the film. While Jeremy Piven certainly has been visible in the film world throughout the years, this is the first film since PCU where he’s atop the call sheet, and god damn is it good to have him back leading the way in a film like this. While Piven doesn’t necessarily need to stray too far from Ari Gold here, as they’re both salesman of sorts, he puts a fresh sort of spin on Don Ready and goes a little deeper as well with glimpses of a troubled job gone bad in “Querque.” Ari Gold and Don Ready are two VERY different kinds of salesmen and Piven does a fascinating job of separating the two, while still retaining his own wonderful style. Ready’s team couldn’t be any better either with the diverse Ving Rhames showing off his comedic chops (even though he’s the most serious of the group) as Jibby Newsome, the improv genius David Koechner at the top of his game with perhaps his juiciest role and best film performance to date as Brent Gage and one of my favorite new comedic actresses, Kathryn Hahn, in wonderful form as Babs Merrick. It’s great to see Koechner in a beefier role like this and I find it rather humorous that this is the second film in a row where Kathryn Hahn tries to seduce a man-child, of sorts… Aside from that main team, there are scene-stealers aplenty here with Ken Jeong as Teddy Dang, one of Selleck’s original salesmen, Craig Robinson (seriously, WHEN is this guy going to get his OWN movie??!!) in amazing form as DJ Request, who doesn’t take kindly to requests, Charles Napier as the grizzled, racist war veteran Dick Lewiston, Ed Helms as the man-band singer Paxton, Alan Thicke as his father and competitor to Selleck, Rob Riggle as The Fly-like Peter, and Tony Hale as Wade Zooha, another one of Selleck’s original salesmen.
As amazing as all of these performances are, credit must be also given to director Neil Brennan for still managing to create a film that caters to all of these diverse comedic talents. Brennan was a co-creator of Chappelle’s Show along with Dave Chappelle, so he obviously has a much different view of comedy than most, but The Goods is his feature film debut, and it’s exceedingly impressive that he was able to reign in such an immense amount of talent for his directorial debut, and bring out some of the most outrageous humor I’ve seen on the silver screen in quite some time.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is a balls-out, take-no-prisoners comedy that knows just how far to push the envelope with this outlandish brand of humor. I haven’t laughed this hard in ages, and even if I have, I can’t remember a movie that gives you so many laughs from so many different people than this one. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is a comedy for the ages. It pisses all over political correctness and beats the hell out of your funny bone at the same time.