Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, James Brolin
Directed by: Neal Brennan (debut)
Written by: Andy Stock (“Balls Out”) and Rick Stempson (“Balls Out”)

It’s almost endearing how hard Jeremy Piven fights to make the new comedy “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” work. While the star of HBO’s “Entourage” tries to carry the film on his shoulders, his new batch of friends – unlike the ones he has on TV – never seem to have his back.

In “The Goods,” Piven plays Don Ready, a used-car liquidator so slick he can talk a stewardess into allowing him to smoke midair. Don is hired by used-car lot owner Ben Selleck (James Brolin) to come in and reenergize his struggling business before they’re bought out by competitors. With his team of misfits in tow – Jibby (Ving Rhames), Brent (David Koechner), and Babs (Kathryn Hahn) – the fearless foursome charge into Temecula, California for a three-day Fourth of July sale that will either make or break the lot.

While the story is set interestingly enough at a car lot, screenwriters Andy Stock and Rick Stempson – whose only other film is the straight-to-DVD movie “Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach” – don’t get to the core of the industry and fail to make the dealership feel authentic.

The laughs are sparse in “The Goods” with most of them coming from actor Craig Robinson (“Pineapple Express”) who plays a strip club DJ hired by Don to keep the lot upbeat for the entire weekend. He refuses, however, to play any music the customers or employees want to hear although his name is DJ Request. Will Ferrell also has a small cameo, which is always the best way to experience Ferrell’s comedic contributions.

The rest of the secondary characters are written with little enthusiasm. Jibby spends most of the movie talking about how he’s never experienced making love to a woman; Brent does nothing more than fend off homosexual advances from Ben; and Babs tries to seduce 10-year-old boy trapped in the body of a 40-year-old man.

While Piven tries to hold it all together in his first lead role in about 15 years, Stock and Stempson act like used-car salesmen themselves and talk a big game before offering us something that sputters and dies long before it even leaves the show room floor.

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