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MOVIE REVIEW

'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard'

The Will Ferrell-Adam McKay production about used car salesmen is no comedy clunker.

August 14, 2009|Robert Abele

It ain't pretty to look at, makes a lot of noise when it runs, and has more than a few features that don't function, but the car dealership comedy "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" has a beater's clunky, fast-moving charm.

Set in the world of crass, battle-fatigued automobile salesmen and produced by the machismo-skewering team of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Talladega Nights"), it doesn't set out to be the raunchiest or silliest or dumbest movie you've ever seen. (It doesn't even qualify as the funniest comedy about used cars, which is, well, that desperately venal 1980 model "Used Cars.") But "The Goods" motors along choking out enough lowbrow laughs to make for an agreeably nutty late summer ride.

Out front is "Entourage" dynamo Jeremy Piven -- more huckster than actor, meaning perfectly cast -- as stripper-loving salesman-for-hire Don Ready, a dealership-hopping mercenary hired by faltering lot owner Ben Selleck (James Brolin) to help unload more than 200 cars in one weekend before a competing businessman (Alan Thicke) can make good on his threat to take over. With a crack team -- played by the nimbly funny David Koechner, Ving Rhames and Kathryn Hahn -- Piven's open-collared, swaggering antihero sets out to move product, reinforce tactical capitalism's ugly thrill, and -- why not? -- try to seduce the owner's daughter (Jordana Spiro) before she hitches herself to a boy-band-loving doofus (dim-bulb maestro Ed Helms).

Writers Andy Stock and Rick Stempson and director Neal Brennan are hardly craftsmen -- the film's visual appeal is that of a weather-stripped sedan -- but their greed for whiplash pacing, brazen nastiness and unfettered lunacy (a hallmark of the Ferrell/McKay oeuvre) is refreshingly honest. Plus, the cast is jammed with seasoned bit players -- Charles Napier, Rob Riggle, Craig Robinson, Kristen Schaal -- who keep the party vibe going whether jokes fly or not.

The best thing you could say about "The Goods" is that the filmmakers consider nothing and nobody terribly precious, even their lead character. Chances are you'll care more whether Hahn's aggressively vixenish saleswoman follows through on an amusingly taboo scheme with Riggle's hulking man-child than whether Don Ready can overcome his personal demons about true love, deadbeat fatherhood and a departed ex-colleague (Ferrell, in a choice cameo). Don even gets hilariously taken down at one point by a pair of heaven-sent angels who belt out his flaws as gospel truth. As absurdist touches go, it's worth shaking on. Sold!

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'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard'

MPAA rating: R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: In general release

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