The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

For Don Ready, life is a mile-high party.

For Don Ready, life is a mile-high party.

(Paramount Vantage) Jeremy Piven, Ving Rames, David Koechner, James Brolin, Jordana Spiro, Kathryn Hahn, Ed Helms, Tony Hale, Ken Jeong, Charles Napier, Jonathan Sadowski, Alan Thicke, Rob Riggle, Noureen DeWulf, Will Ferrell. Directed by Neal Brennan

 Used car salesmen are some of the most excoriated people on earth. It’s not a profession for the faint of heart. To be a successful used car salesman, you have to have the goods.

Don Ready (Piven) has the goods. He’s a gun-for-hire, a mercenary with the killer instinct of a born closer. He grew up thinking the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross were pussies. He’s assembled a team of tight-knit professionals who go from dealership to dealership, bailing them out when they need sales boosted quickly. Selleck Motors of Temecula, California are just such a dealership. The business has been in Ben Selleck’s (Brolin) family for 40 years, but the banks are getting ready to foreclose. The fourth of July weekend is approaching and Selleck’s team of psychotics and losers just aren’t getting the job done. Over the misgivings of his daughter Ivy (Spiro), Ben has to call in the cavalry.

That would include the legendary Don Ready, his numbers genius partner Brent Gage (Koechner) whom Ben has taken an unhealthy liking to, the oversexed Babs Merrick (Hahn) who has taken an unhealthy liking to Ben’s son Peter (Riggle), a ten-year-old in a 30-year-old body, and Jibby Newsome (Rames) who just wants to make love to a woman someday – but he’s not a virgin, mind you. He’s had plenty of sex. He just wants to make loooooove.

They have one weekend to sell 211 cars on the Selleck lot. If they don’t, smarmy import car lot owner Stu Harding (Thicke) and his egocentric son Paxton (Helms) – who is also, incomprehensibly Ivy’s fiancée (and a member of Temecula’s best boy band – excuse me, man band, who once opened for O-Town. You can Google it.

That’s pretty much it for the plot. The movie, essentially, is a vehicle – ‘scuse the pun – for Piven, best known as Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage. The script moves ahead at a breakneck pace, much like the patter of a used car salesman. If you don’t like one gag, have no fear – another will be along in a moment. It’s like a well-served bus line of comedy.

Piven is one of my favorite underrated actors. He doesn’t seem capable of giving a bad performance, and some of my favorite movie moments in films like Very Bad Things and Smokin’ Aces were as a result of Piven’s talents. He gets some solid back-up, particularly from Napier as a mad dog salesman, Brolin, Rames and Helms. Hahn is also worth checking out; she’s slutty without being overly sleazy.

There is a vibe that is produced in Judd Apatow’s best movies here; Temecula, a small town in California’s Mojave Desert, becomes a place we can relate to. Everything is magnified there because there really isn’t all that much to do. Considering the state of the auto industry, this movie provides a comedic bail-out in a summer when laughs have been in short supply, both in the multiplex and out of it. There is definitely a cynical edge to the movie and you get the feeling that the actors are right there with you laughing at some of the antics of their characters. Ferrell, who has an uncredited cameo as Ready’s best friend who suffers a tragic fate, produced this and I would put it up there with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy in terms of comedic punch. People who liked that and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story are going to find this to their liking.

REASONS TO GO: One of the funnier movies of the summer, although a bit on the cynical side. Some nice performances by a smart troupe of character actors.
REASONS TO STAY: Some of the gags can be a bit scattershot.
FAMILY VALUES: Some nudity, much sex and sexual innuendo and a good deal of foul language might give parents pause.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Brennan began his career as a writer and director on “The Chappelle Show” on television.
HOME OR THEATER: While the big screen doesn’t necessarily enhance this movie any, it’s always nice to support a smaller film at the box office.
NEXT: Julie and Julia

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