hate crimes for fun and laughs in the goods

Last night, Jeremy Piven appeared with Ken Jeong -- dressed like a pimp -- on WWE Raw to promote their new comedy The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, which opens in theaters next week. If they're trying to sell this movie to the pro wrestling audience, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not my kind of motion picture.

In the movie, Piven plays Don Ready, a legendary fast-talking salesman leading a ragtag team tasked with saving a struggling used car dealership from going bankrupt. They need to sell more than 200 cars over the July 4th weekend. Hilarity ensues. I guess.

I really don't know how I feel about this movie. My discomfort extends from a single scene in the trailer, in which Piven is giving a pep talk to his team of salesmen. He gets them extremely fired up, talking about car sales like their going to war: "Don't even get me started about Pearl Harbor... We are are the Americans, and they are the enemy. Never again!"

All the while, Ken Jeong as Teddy -- the only Asian face among them -- is looking a little nervous, and the old white guy next to him is giving him the stink-eye. At the climax of the speech, the old guy yells, "Let's get 'em!" and punches Teddy in a frenzy. It gets worse when everyone else joins in the beating. It's unsettling, to say the least.

The joke is about the old racist white dude, right? Taking out unfinished wartime aggression on the first Oriental guy in sight. And we're supposed to laugh at the fact that everyone easily got caught up in the racist, war-era hysteria. I mean, I'm not laughing, but that's the joke, right?

But the redband trailer is even worse. Piven's speech is longer and even more offensive, going on about "the Japs" flying in low, before the old guy loses it and everyone joins in on beating and stomping the crap out of Teddy. What any of this has to do with selling cars, I have no idea.

Then, as he tries to calm everyone down, he admits that they've all "just participated in a hate crime," so they have to get their "stories straight" for the police. The story: Teddy came at them with a "samurai sword" and "Chinese throwing stars," and they were forced to defend themselves. That's downright disturbing.

I know that this one of those comedies where the more ridiculous the situation, the funnier it's supposed to be, so they just throw in anything and everything for a laugh. That said, please excuse me if I don't find jokes about hate crimes funny -- especially when the kind of hate we're talking about comes from a very real, ugly place, with real roots in American history.

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