(This review was originally published on February 24, 2012 at Reel Film News)
“Goon” will be a cult classic, I just know it.
Like “Over the Top”, or films like “Men at Work”, people will watch this thing repeatedly when it comes out on DVD, recite it like “Super Troopers”, and re-enact it like “Fight Club”.
I think I might be one of those people, regardless of how much I initially disliked the film.
“Goon” is the story of Boston bouncer Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) who’s recruited by a minor league hockey team to protect their most valuable asset: super-talented forward Xavier Laflamme (Marc-André Grondin) who’s recently suffered a major blow to his ego. It turns out that Doug might be the next incarnation of legendary enforcer Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a rugged customer on the brink of retirement who Doug is destined to fight on the ice (see above). The thing is, Doug has a heart of gold.
Based on a book (and true story) by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith (the latter being the inspiration for Scott’s protagonist), the story follows Doug’s climb through the ranks, despite the disapproval of his uppity mother and father (Eugene Levy and Ellen David).
Beginning as a purge of phallic jokes, gestures and… well, I’ll stop there, “Goon” develops into something worse: a film that you might grapple with enjoying a little. Director Michael Dowse (“Take Me Home Tonight”) doesn’t care to distinguish between the locker room talk and the outside world, though the obtuse script isn’t his fault. If you’re familiar with screenwriter Evan Goldberg (a.k.a. Seth Rogen’s other half), then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Seann William Scott tempers Doug’s pugilistic tendencies with naive sensitivity when Eva (Alison Pill, “Midnight In Paris”), a reluctant hockey junkie, steals his heart. Still, the violence (mostly just blood) is extreme, something I found actually benefited the film, if nothing else than to serve as a meter of emotion. But don’t read too deep into the over-parodied machismo; Goon often tries way too hard to be funny.
Co-writer (and hockey fanatic) Jay Baruchel plays Doug’s best friend Ryan, a mohawked hockey fiend with a local cable show called ‘Hot Ice’, a medium for his over-the-top belligerence. He’s a character with zero filter, and ironically a weight on the first half of the film (Baruchel’s funniest moments are in “She’s Out of My League” and the TV series “Undeclared”).
For the first thirty minutes, “Goon” feels like leftovers from Goldberg’s scripts for “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express”, a brand of comedy that has grown tiresome in my eyes. But somewhere amidst the F-bombs and genital references emerges a surprisingly endearing story, like “Happy Gilmore” meets “Our Idiot Brother” – maybe vs. “Roadhouse”. But “Goon” manages to spoil one element with another…. Doug knocks ’em down about as often as he says “you’re so pretty” to Eva.
Technically a hockey movie (but really following the boxing model), “Goon” isn’t always sure what to do with itself, but ultimately pulls out of the nose-dive that I thought was imminent. I gave the movie points as quickly as I deducted them…. definitely don’t take this one at face value.