The first time we meet Don Ready (Jeremy Piven), he embodies everything that we've come to expect from the actor who portrays him. Munching bacon in a strip joint with Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames), Brent Gage (David Koechner), and Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn), his hard-bitten cadre of used car mercenaries, Ready is sleazeball confidence personified -- but he gets the job done. When struggling dealerships need to move cars, no one else can clear a lot faster. Ben Sellick's (James Brolin) dealership in Temecula is about to go bust, and Ready is his last hope for staying in business. Of course, Ready and his crew are up to the task, but when the fast-talking salesman finds himself falling for Sellick's daughter, Ivy (Jordana Spiro), he starts to lose focus and risks blowing the whole deal. Perhaps with a little help from his oddball crew and the eager salesmen at Sellick Motors, Ready will find his soul and a reason to settle down.
The Goods is the kind of raunchy, swaggering, character-based comedy that Will Ferrell built his career on. So while it's no surprise to note that Ferrell produced the comedy (alongside longtime collaborator Adam McKay), it's arguable whether Piven has the comic chops of the SNL alum who gave us such belligerent big-screen dolts as Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby. Regardless of his suspect ability to carry a film, Piven is just about perfect in the role (while everyone else seems to be playing it to the hilt, he appears uncannily comfortable in the skin of a sleazy used car dealer), and his supporting cast helps to elevate The Goods even above such tired and obvious Ferrell vehicles as Blades of Glory and Step Brothers. Ed Helms gets a few laughs as the overgrown boy-band singer who cites the Backstreet Boys as changing the face of modern music, Craig Robinson delivers a few hilariously awkward moments as the control-freak DJ who sonically spites anyone who dares make a request, and Ferrell himself even drops in for a late-film cameo that nearly steals the whole show. Even screen vets James Brolin and Charles Napier get in on the fun as the closeted dealership owner and his xenophobic salesman, respectively, ramping up the levels of absurdity just enough to push The Goods past simply passable and into the realm of genuinely entertaining. The real surprise of the bunch, however, is Hahn, whose eclectic filmography hints at a diverse talent that's yet to be fully tapped. Her psychotically horny Babs may be the standout member of the core crew (with the exception of Piven, of course), and with a outlandish performance like this following a memorable turn in last year's Academy Award-winning Revolutionary Road, it would seem that she's destined for bigger and better things. If it feels like supporting cast members Tony Hale and Ken Jeong don't get the opportunity to truly shine in their small roles, this minor oversight can ultimately be forgiven thanks to the fact that the filmmakers wisely went for an anti-Apatow, less-is-more approach in terms of running time, ensuring that The Goods seems to breeze by rather than overstaying its welcome.
It's not often that you walk into a movie expecting to loathe every second of it and walk out with a smile on your face. Even if the movie in question wasn't necessarily deserving of your scorn in the first place, the process of pulling out of that mindset and surrendering to the reality of the situation can be so mentally taxing that you stubbornly choose to stick with your curmudgeonly predisposition rather than admit defeat. Then again, diminished expectations can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.
Damn you, Jeremy Piven, and your douchebag charms.