A few weeks back I got an email from Gongshow Gear, a clothing company dedicated to funny hockey inspired shirts and hats etc. It announced the coming of apparel for a new movie called Goon. I liked the hats and sought out the film's website. It took all of 10 seconds of the trailer to know I couldn't wait to see it. A) I'm a hockey nut, and B) it looked funny as hell. Both things remain true.
Seann William Scott plays Doug "The Thug" Glatt, a simpleton bouncer struggling with his place amongst a successful family of doctors. His life is definitely stalled out until his best friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) takes him to a local minor league hockey game where he beats the living crap out of a player that jumps the boards to come after Ryan. The local coach takes note and even though Doug literally cannot skate, he makes the team for one reason and one reason only, to fight.
For those not into hockey, the roll on a team of a "goon," more commonly known as an "enforcer," has been a part of the sport for as long as most can remember. Players would police themselves so to speak. If one team targeted a star player or there were some cheap shots going around, you'd see the respective enforcers take the ice and drop the gloves. Despite the brutality at its core, this type of fighting was agreed upon and approached by the combatants with a sense of nobility.
That is one of the things Goon got right. Scott's performance is so great because he displays that pride while, as the poster says, he is the nicest guy you'll ever fight. He thanks his opponents, takes care of his teammates and his courtship of Eva (Alison Pill) is too adorable for her to resist. I called him a simpleton, but he's more than that, he's just a good guy lost. You can recognize, and maybe empathise with Doug as a human being looking for his place in the world. He might not be proud of his calling, but he's proud to be useful. He's proud to be part of a team. It's a message that rings loud in today's economy and shifts Goon from a simple hockey/sports film into the story of a working class hero.
Of course, all that is the film school version of my review. The reality for most will be to sit down and watch a very funny movie from the guy behind Superbad. Doug's journey starts in the minor league's minor league and sees him rise up to eventually square off with one of the greatest fighters of all time. He finds romance and becomes the emotional leader of his team and yes, scores a goal with his butt.
Now, I'm not so blinded by my undying affection for hockey that I fail to recognize the flaws. Firstly, writer/actor Baruchel is hard to watch. I get it, he's a scrawny, super minor league hockey fan with a potty mouth, but he cusses so much you just want him to shut up. He plays it way over the top, too much so, ignoring basic rules of decorum in every situation and while Doug might admit he's dumb, Ryan is clearly the biggest idiot of the bunch. His character has no arc, and really, after the first reel no purpose in the film. Even his "let's cheer my buddy up" speech ends in a swear word tirade and "let's get drunk!" He's a caricature, I get that, but I found him too annoying and eating up too much screen time.
My super nitpick comes from me as a goalie and representing the brotherhood of goaltenders. How in the hell do you have a locker room full of hockey players, hockey fans and Canadians of all things, and yet the guy playing the back up goalie sitting next to Doug and prominently in the frame is putting his goalie pads on the wrong legs!! Seriously? You should all have your maple leaf tattoos removed.
My biggest complaint though comes as a devoted ambassador of the game. As a coach, a player and a fan, I've been battling the bloated public perception that our game is nothing more than a series of fights punctuated with some goals. I've seen the "give blood, play hockey" bumper stickers and the images of guys with missing teeth while slouched shit faced in a pile of beer cans. They are stereotypes and while there are segments of our game that even to this day embrace that image, the reality is entirely different. I hope that people understand the hyperbole of Goon and enjoy it for that silliness and not as a historical record of minor league hockey.
The movie also faces quite a battle in that, considering the wave of anti-fighting and concussion awareness that has swept over the NHL recently, as well as most major sport, a movie that glorifies the goon stereotype will get no play with the big league. This isn't Miracle or Mystery, Alaska. too much of the feel good of Goon is squeezed out by the pure brutality of the fight sequences. This is an adult hockey player film, not a youth hockey player film.
With all that said, I really like the movie. Flawed, yes, but highly enjoyable. Scott is very funny and likable, as are his teammates. You wanna cheer for these guys and when the final fight arrives, they've established there will be no real loser. Both men honor their trade and both men achieve success in what they set out to accomplish. It's a win win! Goon won't dethrone Slap Shot as the funniest hockey movie ever, but it is a worthy assistant captain.
Fav. Quote: "Why are you crying? Did you just watch Rudy?"