Monday, December 07, 2009

Thoughts on the film: The Goods

A tip: Always read the reviews for the business before you hire them. I will never, ever rent from Budget Truck Rental again. Horrible. Just horrible.

On the other hand, I will eat at Koo Koo Roo many times. Always nice, those people, and good food.


I watched The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard this weekend. So sad. This movie began so well. We were all laughing our asses off at some expertly written unexpected jokes. At one point during a Will Farrel cameo Beefcake doubled over in uncontrollable laughter and couldn't breathe.

Why did a film this funny bomb, you may ask? That's what we asked too, at the beginning. But as the movie wore on it became glaringly obvious where the flaws were. I kept thinking there were pages missing. There were all these character development moments that didn't make sense. Suddenly our protagonist cares about the dealership? Suddenly the owner doesn't? There was kind of a ticking clock, but nobody seemed terribly concerned about it, and there was a father/son thing that felt sort of thrown in to fill up pages.

I'll expand on that if you don't mind some minor spoiler warnings. There's a character named Blake who looks nothing like Jeremy Piven but does this hand motion he does, so naturally Jeremy assumes the kid is his son. Okay it's a quirky comedy, I may be able to buy this, but then Blake gets barely any screen time. In fact, there are a bunch of characters who get almost no screen time. Why is Ken Jeong in this movie? I suspect because somebody thought the Pearl Harbor joke was irresistible.

That's the big flaw in this film. Somebody loved his jokes a little too much. There are multiple times in this film when a joke hurts the plot. The joke may be hilarious, but it's so far out of left field and not the best move for the overall story that it drags the movie down.

It was definitely a case of "Hey this movie's really funny! And it really sucks!"

And in keeping with the Frankenstein plot choices this movie's got, there's a scene where Jeremy's character sits down to a family dinner and pulls out a bucket of Arby's. Why? Clearly because Arby's bought screen time. It has absolutely ZERO to do with the plot.

So in short, great jokes and interesting scenarios pieced together with a crap story. It kind of makes sense when you realize that the two writers (Andy Stock and Rick Stempson) and the director (Neal Brennan) have almost no experience working with features. Their combined history is mostly sketch comedy.

We can learn two lessons from this, lessons we already know but should always bear in mind.

1) Kill your darlings. The joke may be hilarious, but if it fucks up the story, it has to go. At one point in this film there was an opportunity for a great turning point when the bad guys offer to buy the dealership, but that moment is sacrificed in favor of a funny joke. I don't care how funny your joke is. If it throws the story out of whack, it has to go. You can tweet it if you want, but take it out of the script.

2) A bunch of nifty characters and jokes do not a story make. Is there a plot? No? Then write something else.


  1. Excellent post, Emily.

    This is spot-on.

    I'm writing a comedy with my co-writer currently, and this is something we talk about a lot.

    Sketch comedians go for the unexpected and random laughs, which is great for sketches, but not so for Story.

    Even the Monty Python flicks are mostly connected sketches that follow the general theme of the Plot, if not Story.

    We've had to kill many of our darlings in service of Story and Plot, and I think our script is better for it.

    It can be boiled down to sacrificing Story for Scene.

    I'm going to show this post to him.


  2. Cool! I'm not much of a comedy writer, so I'm glad it resonates.


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