Notable Cast: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill, Eugene Levy, Kim Coates, Marc-André Grondin
Review: Alright Seann William Scott, at first I was flabbergasted why an actor would abandon Kevin Smith for a movie with essentially the same premise, but Goon was some good old frosty fun. Writer Evan Goldberg (Superbad/Pineapple Express) ditched usual collaborator Seth Rogen, teaming with actor/writer Jay Baruchel (She’s Out Of My League/Tropic Thunder) to bring comedy back into hockey like Slap Shot once did. A proper teaming, as Baruchel considered Goon a “passion project” on account of the Canadian blood coursing through his veins and a love for his home country sport. Goon evokes the fun of George Roy Hill’s classic hockey comedy (Slap Shot) about the awful team no one counted on banding together, but by adding more links the chain becomes one strong bonded group. Honestly, the same underdog story we see over and over again in sport films, but still a fun sports comedy non the less. Much like main character Doug Glatt, Goon wins over with straight shooting charm and simplistic thinking, emphasized by goofy likability. And anyway, isn’t fighting the reason we watch hockey here in the US? Well here’s a whole movie about it. Enjoy, you blood thirsty horde.
Doug (William Scott) to this point has coasted through life with no real purpose, except bouncing a local bar and watching hockey with best bud Ryan (Baruchel). It doesn’t help that his un-supportive Jewish parents constantly compare him to successful brother Ira (David Paetkau) and judge his lifestyle. But all that changes while watching a semi-pro league hockey game with Ryan, as his brash best friend provokes a player to jump the plexiglass and charge the two. Doug instinctively steps in and pulverized the player, attracting attention from the coaches watching. One phone call later and Doug is suited up for a career of bashing faces and inflicting pain, finally finding his true calling. But can he earn the respect of his team and actually get good enough at the sport to be more than just a common Goon? Filled with dedication and a newfound motivation, Doug surely will try.
Whether it was Goon or Smith’s Hit Somebody, William Scott belonged in this role.
Now to me, and not for a minute am I accusing Goon of stealing directly from Slap Shot, but you can’t deny the obvious similarities. In each, a basement dwelling team is brought together by violence to make an inevitably remarkable late season surge, as well as grow together to a family bond type level. As I stated earlier, nothing new. Where Goon separates itself though is by offering the point of view Slap Shot ignored, that of the beloved Hanson brothers. These men were the real goons, but we were treated to Paul Newman’s outer look into obscurity. Goon instead opts to tell the tale of the goon himself, a glance into the life of someone being used to shake the system. You could see some Hanson in Dougie Glatt as well, through his near-sighted honesty. I always think to the innocence of the Hanson brothers, as other players find the trio playing with a motorized race track instead of coming out and drinking. We get a taste of this no bullshit attitude from Seann William Scott, but thankfully Glatt is a little more socially aware, otherwise Goon would have only needed “play hockey and hit people” written as a plot. But hey, these creators should blush being mentioned in the same paragraph as Slap Shot, which I myself consider one of the greatest sports comedies to lampoon the ice, as well as genre.
Team wise, the eclectic cast of unfamiliar faces defied the odds much like their character counterparts. Marc-André Grondin played hot-shot turned party animal loose cannon Xavier Laflamme, Doug’s forced roommate. A bright future ahead of him, one punishing clock cleaning sent Laflamme out with a concussion and changed his outlook forever, causing him to fight Doug every stop of the way. He was the more anti-hero/point of conflict for Doug, the audience finding comedy in the more colorful surrounding characters. Jonathan Cherry stopped populating F-list horror movies to play Percocet popping goalie Marco Belchier, arguably a throwback to the insane Chief’s goalie Denis Lemieux played by Yvon Barrette. Richard Clarkin plays Gord Ogilvey, the divorced alcoholic who musters a few chuckles from his drunken speeches. Ricky Mabe (yeah, Barry from Zack and Miri) plays John Stevenson, the sparky youngster kiss ass to Gord. Finally, the main group is rounded out by George Tchortov and Karl Graboshas who play foreign jokesters Evgeni and Oleg. I would have loved more time for these guys because their rude jokes and stereotypes made for some of the funnier moments in Goon, but maybe overkill would have changed my mind. Liev Schreiber kicks some ass on the opposing side as grand daddy goon rival Ross Rhea, a real entertaining bruiser but respectable competitor. Not pretty on paper and some would say a rag-tag team, but together our cast were winners none the less.
You’ll be surprised with just how much content Baruchel and Goldberg are able to squeak into Goon, but one can’t deny it works. Goon lets us glance into the life of a hockey enforcer, a position taken with certain expectations. But Goon begs us to feel Doug as a human character. Sean William Scott shows the sweet side of Doug via a rather cute relationship with Allison Pill, the compassionate side of Doug via undying camaraderie that forces him to never give up on Xavier, the want to be respected and loved by those closest to him, and most importantly the want to experience accomplishment: which is a feeling everybody wishes for. Doug Glatt wasn’t some hard knuckled thug who had to quench his thirst for blood by senselessly beating opponents into a coma. That idea would have turned Goon into a whole different monster. Thank Seann William Scott as well for wandering outside his typical quick talking frat boy mode and humbling himself for a much more homely character, all part of the allure of Goon. Sure, the violence is rather brutal, and Doug is a master of his craft, but all the back story sheds a light on him revealing his true nature, making it easy to root for Doug even if it means some guy looses a mouth full of teeth. God bless hockey, Eh?
Final Rating: 7 flying yamakas out of 10
Ladies and gentlemen, the serious side of Seann William Scott…