The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard bombed hard at the box office this August for reasons I have yet to figure out. My wife and I expected nothing from this movie, and with the bar set so low we were astonished at just how gut-bustingly funny it was from start to finish. Jeremy Piven--so annoying is just about everything he has ever been in--finds a perfect groove in Don Ready, a used-car hustler who needs to impose his will on reluctant consumers the way the rest of need to breathe. He takes an almost prurient pleasure in these conquests which, by itself, would have been funny enough. The fact that he is joined by a team of similarly unscrupulous cohorts lets the movie maintain a comedic momentum which never lets up--start to finish. Ready and his gang (Kathryn Hahn and Ving Rhames, among others) are flown to James Brolin's car lot to spur enough sales for Brolin to keep his business from being taken over by...wait for it...Alan Thicke and Ed Helms. I have always maintained that Christopher McDonald, so slimy in Thelma and Louise, Happy Gilmore, and The Iron Giant, is one of the consistently best bad guys in the business, but Alan Thicke and Ed Helms give him a run for his money. They steal every scene they are in, and any remnant of the good heart that Thicke built up as the vanilla father on Growing Pains is obliterated within seconds of his appearance on screen. Their characters make a perfect foil for Don Ready, since they all share the lack of a moral compass and the open acknowledgement that there is no such thing as right and wrong--only winning and losing.
No stone goes unturned in pursuit of a laugh. The movie opens with a scene of Don Ready convincing an entire flight that the future of our republic hinges on his right to smoke on the plane, during which he seduces a naive flight attendant not because he wants to but just because he can. Other highlights include the beating of a Korean-American by salesmen whipped up into a gingoistic frenzy by Don Ready's recounting of Pearl Harbor, an openly racist/homophobic/misogynist elder salesman who despite every opportunity never learns the error of his ways, the uncomfortably sexual pursuit of a man-child by an under-sexed female sales rep, and an uncredited cameo by Will Ferrel whose character dies in the most ludicrous and hysterical fashion imaginable and whose meaningless death Don Ready, as expected, carries as a token burden (however paper-thin and utterly absurd). And in a throwaway role as a DJ who believes that audience song requests are little more than a subterfuge for slavery, the Office's Craig Ferguson expresses a quiet pain and rage without any trace of humor-killing irony. He's like a black Leslie Nielson.
So, do Don Ready and his team sell all of the cars and save the lot? What do you think? The plot exists only as a vehicle for the jokes, and to the film's credit almost all of the jokes are character driven--this isn't a story that relies on slapstick as a crutch. As such, it is one of the funniest movies released this year, and it definitely deserves to be seen. So ignore the naysayers on RottenTomatoes and enjoy yourself. You won't regret it.