LOS ANGELES - Enduring the soul-sucking process of buying a used car is bad enough. Watching a movie about soulless used-car salesmen is even worse - especially when it's a comedy that strains desperately for raunchy, politically incorrect laughs.
In theory, the pieces were there for something slightly more inspired with "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard."
"Chappelle's Show" co-creator Neal Brennan directs for the first time (from a script by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson), and the large ensemble cast features Jeremy Piven, David Koechner, Ving Rhames, Ed Helms, Tony Hale and Ken Jeong. A lot of improv supposedly went on, as well, as you might expect in a movie from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions. After all, these are the people behind "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights."
But this time, except for a couple of amusing lines here and there, the results just feel flat and generally unpleasant. Every character is singularly unlikable, but beyond that, they're drawn so one-dimensionally that they're not even interesting.
Piven, as hotshot used-car salesman Don "The Goods" Ready, is essentially doing a variation on his cocky, fast-talking Ari Gold character from "Entourage" - which is pretty much all we've seen him do for years now. Don is the leader of a brash crew of mercenaries (played by Koechner, Rhames and Kathryn Hahn) who are hired to travel from town to town, moving cars off flailing lots. Their latest stop is Temecula in Southern California, where they have to help sell 141 cars over the three-day July 4 weekend.
The dealership's owner, Ben Selleck (James Brolin), is in financial trouble and on the verge of selling the place to his more successful competitor, Stu Harding (Alan Thicke). Stu's son, Paxton (Helms), the leader of the thirtysomething boy band Big Ups (he calls it a "man band"), wants to use the space for rehearsals. Paxton also happens to be engaged to Ben's daughter, Ivy (Jordana Spiro), which makes no sense since she seems vaguely cool and smart.
And so what we have here is essentially a remake of the 1980 Robert Zemeckis comedy "Used Cars," complete with wild gimmicks and even strippers who are brought in to help move those vehicles. A gag involving getting "American Idol" runner-up Bo Bice's brother to play during the sale gets hammered into the ground. So do racial and gay jokes.
It's just repetitive, adolescent and lame. Speaking of which, the whole point of Rob Riggle's character - that he's a 10-old-boy trapped in the body of a grown man because of a pituitary irregularity - is downright creepy, especially when Hahn's oversexed Babs Merrick starts aggressively hitting on him.
And then there is Ferrell himself - who makes his obligatory weirdo cameo as Don's former partner, who died in a skydiving accident while dressed for a President's Day sale as Abraham Lincoln. His character isn't the only element of this movie that lands with a thud.
"The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard," a Paramount Vantage release, is rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material. Running time: 90 minutes. One star out of four.
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