When you can’t get will Ferrell, you get … Jeremy Piven? That’s apparently what the makers of the awkwardly titled The Goods: Live Hard. Sell Hard. decided, since the movie originally conceived as a starring vehicle for Ferrell (who’s still on board as a producer and has a small cameo) has been reinvented as Piven’s first major studio film as a lead. It’s not exactly an auspicious start for the many-Emmy’d Entourage player, who proves abrasive and unfunny as slimeball car salesman Don Ready, called in to Temecula, California (the inexplicable butt of many jokes) to help save an ailing dealership owned by Ben Selleck (Brolin, completely embarrassing himself).
Don and his team blow into town full of confidence, but soon Don’s tough exterior is softened by a blossoming relationship with Selleck’s daughter Ivy (Spiro), and he’s putting everything on the line to save Selleck’s dealership from a smarmy rival company run by Ivy’s father-in-law-to-be (Alan Thicke, beyond being embarrassed, apparently) and dim-bulb fiancé (Helms). The plot takes every predictable turn you could imagine, and despite a cast stocked with comedy ringers (Helms, Ken Jeong, Rob Riggle, Craig Robinson, Tony Hale, David Koechner, etc.) even in the smallest parts, everyone flails about aimlessly, as if trying to get through the experience as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The filmmakers can’t even be bothered to sell the cynically sentimental moments, letting overplayed classic-rock standards fill in for any sort of meaningful connection between characters. Piven and Spiro (pretty much the only person in the movie stuck playing things straight) have no chemistry, and the other subplots range from perfunctory (Ving Rhames’ character has bedded hundreds of women but never “made love”) to icky (Kathryn Hahn’s character aggressively pursues Selleck’s son, a 10-year-old boy with a disorder that gives him the body of a man). Gay-panic jokes abound, and if you ever wanted to see a close-up of James Brolin, er, pitching a tent, then it’s your lucky day (also, what is wrong with you?). Will Ferrell may be having a rough time at the box office lately (hello, Land of the Lost), but he was right to pass on this worthless waste of time.