“Used Cars” (1980). Look it up. Funnier. “The Goods” is not terrible, but “Used Cars” did more with the same material. Mostly because, Kurt Russell. Also, Jack Warden and Joe Flaherty.
But, we’re here to talk about “The Goods”, and it’s OK. The sort of product we expect from the Ferrell/McKay factory; a hang-loose episodic comedy with a lot of cussing, a little gratuitous nudity, a cast of better than average actors: Ving Rhames (not much to do, though), David Koechner, always good to see, Ed Helms (a bit part but not bad), Craig Robinson in mostly an extended cameo, the always watchable James Brolin and Charles Napier (great!), Rob Riggle, Ken Jeong, Tony Hale, even a few minutes of Will Ferrell himself. Hard to miss completely with a list like that. And it’s not a miss, just not a big hit.
Jeremy Piven, though….A half dozen actors come to mind that could’ve done this movie just as well without being quite so skeevy and obnoxious. Yes, the character is supposed to be a sleaze, but he has to be at least a little likeable, and Piven just isn’t. Hard to care if he makes the sale, gets the girl or can forgive himself for Albuquerque. He’s overdoing the redeemable creep role, mostly because it’s hard to care if he’s redeemable. Actually, it’d be funnier if he stayed unredeemed. Will Ferrell is just so much better at this outrageously un-self-aware dim man-child stuff. Maybe if they’d cast somebody else as protagonist?
But, they didn’t. The Talladega Nights style rapid-fire absurd joke parts work pretty well; the rom-com stuff is just deadly dull. The will-they-won’t-they-who-cares breaks the comedic momentum and dissipates the goodwill of the fun parts. It worked better in “Ron Burgundy” and “Talladega Nights” because Will Ferrell is able to be authentically funny; in “The Goods”, our hero is more than a little tiresome, knowing he’s damaged goods who might turn his life around with the love of a good woman. Instead of being goofily clueless. By the end, I’d as soon Ed Helms drove off in his Mercedes with his boy band and Jordana Spiro, too.
Or that’s my take. For a harmlessly juvenile comedy with a lot of famous people in it, “The Goods” is good enough. For what it is. It does have a Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am with T-tops and screaming chicken decal, so there's that.