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Jeremy Piven, David Koechner, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Paramount Vantage

Review in a Hurry: A scattershot, poorly filmed, ill-conceived comedy about used car salesmen that nonetheless manages enough surprising laugh-out-loud moments to make it worth a look—when it inevitably shows up on Comedy Central a couple of months from now. The big screen does it no favors, though.

The Bigger Picture: In Temecula, California, a battle is going down. Used-car dealer Ben Selleck (James Brolin) is on the fast track to bankruptcy, which arch-rival Stu Harding (Alan Thicke) is game to cash in on, as he plans to buy his enemy's property and turn it into a rehearsal studio for his nimrod son Paxton (Ed Helms) to practice singing harmonies in.

Selleck's last resort is to call in "mercenaries"—expert guns-for-hire who will owe him no loyalty, but in the best-case scenario clean out the old inventory and keep the business going. Enter Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) and his team: goofball Brent (David Koechner), lusty Babs (Kathryn Hahn), and lovelorn Jibby (Ving Rhames). They get to sellin', and aside for some minor plot-detours about Ready trying to romance Paxton's fiancée and forget about his dead partner, that's pretty much the entire plot.

With such dependably entertaining principals, as well as a gaggle of other Comedy Central regulars, it's no surprise that, despite the lackluster story and poor cinematography, there are laughs to be had here. Some gospel-tinged bits that might be subtle Tyler Perry parodies are hilarious, and Brolin turns what would normally be a stereotypical dirty old man role into something above and beyond.

Still, Piven as lead just doesn't work here. He's great at playing jerks and wise-cracking best friends, but as a main character who needs to be both sympathetic and vulnerable, he is neither. We don't root for him to get the girl or save the day, because neither goal appears to be either all that challenging—or even potentially rewarding—for a guy like him.

There's a sense, especially during the film's final montage, that there was some intent here to do a dark comedy in the style of Observe and Report, but that worked because it was subverting Seth Rogen's established persona, while Piven simply plays to his.

It's tempting to say this should have been a TV movie, except that some gratuitous nudity and near non-stop swearing make that impossible. On cable, where it can be enjoyed between beers strictly for the laugh-lines, The Goods will be properly delivered. In theaters, it's only The Mediocres.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Will Ferrell's cameo scenes are as funny as anything he's ever done, and Kathryn Hahn's transition from Revolutionary Road to this mark her as a multifaceted talent to watch.

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Also opening today: District 9, Bandslam and The Time Traveler's Wife.