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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Maybe now would be an appropriate time to mention Used Cars, the 1980 movie by director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale. It’s a freewheeling, farcical gagfest about Rudy (Kurt Russell), a relentlessly inventive and amoral car salesman who rescues a financially imperiled used car lot that’s been inherited by the girl he eventually falls in love with.

I don’t think any of the people principally responsible for Neal Brannan’s The Goods were really trying to copy or steal things from Used Cars—for one thing, their aspirations, creative impulses, and sensibilities don’t operate at a level anywhere near that high. But it’s a little difficult to believe they didn’t remember it when they brainstormed their lame-ass way to their movie’s concept. The Goods is also about a ruthless used-car salesman, but the resemblances don’t go much further than that.

Used Cars may seem to have gleefully sped through its nearly two-hour length like a gag machine, but it was skillfully assembled and paced, and it contained a few well-aimed jabs at Americans’ vulgar commercial ethos and gullibility. The Goods may be intended as an updated paean to cheerful vulgarity, but it is insistently and oppressively witless, an ill-made celebration of the new, crude infantilism of mass-market movies (no surprise when you learn that it comes from Will Ferrell’s new production company).

Jeremy Piven (the uber-agent Ari Gold in HBO’s The Entourage) is Don Ready, a traveling mercenary who comes to the rescue of failing car businesses, unloading their unsold auto inventories by hook and crook. He and his team descend on a Southwestern burg where a beleaguered dealer (James Brolin) needs to stave off financial disaster.

The egregious vacuousness of this thing is signaled by its general neglect of the supposedly comic details and mechanics of this dubious high-pressure operation. The movie makes only a few desultory gestures in this vein and devotes most of its attention to juvenile sexual lowjinks, both verbal and visual. Used Cars reveled in Rudy’s schemes, scams and triumphs over the fools and finaglers. The Goods pounds home its junior-high jejuness and near-beer grossouts.

Brennan (who used to write for Dave Chappelle) doesn’t so much pace things as pile them on. Piven seems to have adopted a Vince Vaughan-like motor-mouth approach to his role, which is wearisomely appropriate.

Something like The Goods can make you question the wisdom of sexual and creative freedom.

george sax

Watch the trailer for The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

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