Thursday, March 29, 2012

Goon - Movie Review

Do you want to see a softer side of Stiffler while still punching people in the face? By the way, is anyone besides me looking forward to the return of the 'one true Stiffler' in American Reunion next month?

Goon is based on the book "Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into Minor League Hockey" by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith. Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt (based on the real Doug Smith), a simple guy working as a bouncer in a local bar. Doug's not the brightest bulb, but he's very aware of this and is generally a nice and polite kid. He's also a bit of a disappointment to his father (an underused Eugene Levy), as he wants him to be a doctor like his brother.  However, Doug understands that's he just not smart enough to be one.

Doug spends his time hanging with his best friend Pat (Jay Baruchel, who was also co-writer), who runs a hockey site and call in show.  Pat is a bit of foul loudmouth, but it's mostly for laughs and to get underneath people's skin.  One night at a local hockey game, Pat's heckling gets the best of a player and he goes into the stands to fight him. Doug steps in, as that's the type of guy he is, and proceeds to beat the living tar out of the guy.  Impressed by this, the head coach and asks him to try out for the team. The problem: Doug isn't a hockey player.  He can barely skate initially.  That doesn't matter to Coach, because his role is to be the team's new enforcer, or goon.

Now I'm not a huge hockey fan, but my understanding has always been that the job of the goon is to basically go into the game and start a fight with an opposing player that has it coming or intimidate them.  Goons are usually very popular with the fans.  They bring the blood.  Doug excels in his new role and quickly gains the affection of the fans.  This gets him a promotion to a paid, minor league club that hopes his toughness will inspire some of his new teammates.

Seann William Scott seems like a natural fit here. As I mentioned earlier, despite that fact that he's basically a dumb brute, there's an innocence about Doug that makes it hard not to root for him.  He's socially awkward and seems to be uncomfortable in his own skin at times.  Like imagine a big, dumb guard dog.  This is the type of guy that would take a bullet for you or beat the living hell out of some guy giving you shit.

There's also a subplot involving his pursuit of Eva (Allison Pill), that shows you how Doug is just too damn nice.  His behavior puts Eva off, even though she normally likes hockey players due to their bad boy nature. She's not used to nice guys, so Doug's a bit of an enigma for her, despite his simplicity.  When Eva rejects Doug, you actually feel bad for him.  Allison Pill's 'Eva' is a little messed up herself, but her self-awareness makes you forgive her a bit.  Pill really seems to improve in each movie I've seen her in recently.

Liev Schreiber also stars as Ross Rhea, an aging goon that Doug has looked up to. There's a passing of the guard element between those two and a showdown that the movie sets up from the opening moments. Until I had seen Schreiber in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (a movie I still HATE), I never would have bought him in a physical role. Schreiber's not in it as much as I would have liked, but when he's on screen it feels like he's the man.

As I mentioned earlier, Eugene Levy is totally underused here.  It's really my only complaint about anyone in the cast.  He's only in two or three scenes and given nothing funny to do, except be the disapproving father.  It seems like a waste to cast someone with Levy's comedic chops for a role like this.

There are quite a few laugh out loud moments and a lot of the humor came from the silliness of Doug's teammates. I'm actually kind of surprised it wasn't funnier as Baruchel's co-writer was Evan Goldberg, who's also co-written movies like Pineapple Express and Superbad.  It shares the same vulgarity as those movies, which may be a turn off if you're someone that doesn't like liberal use of 'F-bombs'.  Don't get me wrong, it's a funny movie, but it's just missing a little something.  Perhaps they should have brought in Seth Rogen to help punch it up.

I liked Michael Dowse direction here.  This is a brutal and bloody movie at times.  There's lots of fighting, but he balanced it well with the humor and aforementioned sweetness of the characters.  Even the opposing goons in the movie come off as nice guys when they aren't fighting.  There's an honor about what they do.

It's been a while since I've seen a good hockey comedy. I wonder why that is? It seems like hockey is a sport just rife with opportunities for comedy. Perhaps it's mainly due to it not being as popular in the US?  There's Slap Shot and now Goon.  That's it.  Those are the only two I can think of.  The nice thing about Goon is that you don't actually have to be a hockey fan to enjoy it. It's not quite the laugh riot I was expecting, but there's an underlying sweetness that makes the movie stand out from other sports comedies.  It should be On Demand as we speak. I recommend checking it out.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. In the end, it's the less high-scoring offspring of the 1977 classic Slap Shot, but to even mention it in that movie's company is praise enough. Seann William Scott is also great and plays a character that I never knew he could play so dang well. Good review Erik.

    1. Thanks, Dan! Scott plays Doug Glatt with a simple-minded innocence that I didn't think he was capable of before watching Goon.