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June 01, 2012

Movies You Missed 41: Goon

GoonThis week in movies you missed, a hockey movie with equal parts bloodshed, cussing and heart.

What You Missed

Seann William Scott (best known as Stifler in the American Pie series) plays Doug Glatt, a nice doctor's son whose only real talent is for violence. Punching people is what he's good at, though he's so sweet he sometimes apologizes to them first.

At a hockey game one night with his superfan friend (Jay Baruchel), Doug gets in a tussle with a player who insists on using a homophobic slur ("My brother is gay!" he objects). The coach is so impressed with the punishment Doug inflicts that he hires him to be the team's "goon," or enforcer, though Doug can barely stand up on skates.

After polishing his edge skills, our hero ends up playing for the Halifax Highlanders, where his job is to protect a twitchy young former star (Marc-André Grondin) with serious morale issues. Will he lead the team to victory, and also get a girlfriend? You bet he will.

Why You Missed It

No idea. While it may be indie and Canadian, Goon is a crowd-pleasing sports comedy. And hockey is kinda big here. You can currently see a lacrosse movie on the big screen, so why not this one?

Should You Keep Missing It?

Goon has been compared to Slap Shot. So if you're a hockey fan and not too hung up on good sportsmanship, my guess is you want to see this.

I've never watched a hockey game and didn't even know that on-ice fights are considered a legitimate part of the sport in North America. But I liked it.

Some reasons why:

Proof that the right role can make an actor likable. In the American Pie movies, Scott plays a smug meathead we're supposed to love. I don't. Here he plays the world's sweetest, most humble meathead, and while it may be a silly conceit, it works, because he's utterly unself-conscious. Doug says "please" and "thank you" at every opportunity, like a child who's been told to watch his manners. He proudly owns his own stupidity. He says things like "Beer and soup, that's my thing" and "I like corndogs because you don't need a bun." Somehow he makes us believe that a sharp-tongued, potty-mouthed hockey fan (Alison Pill) would leave her yuppie boyfriend to be with this guy.

Jim's dad plays Stifler's dad. Yes, Eugene Levy. He's underused here, but it's nice to see him.

Rude, raunchy laughs. Inspired by the real story of hockey "goon" Doug Smith, Goon was cowritten by Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express), who are some funny Canadians. The locker-room scenes showcase rowdy banter packed with every possible slur, all so over the top that I never found it mean-spirited. The other team members are memorable cartoons.

Liev Schreiber is a badass, for real this time. As a rival team's legendary goon who's nearing retirement, a shaggy Schreiber seems to be channeling Russell Crowe, both in his pugnaciousness and his reflective moments. Why can't he take more roles like this instead of that Wolverine business?

French-language hip-hop on the soundtrack. An aspect of Québecois culture we aren't exposed to so often.

Verdict: If you want to teach impressionable young hockey players that violence is not part of the game, keep Goon away from them. This is a movie where a tooth getting knocked out is slow-mo-ed and scored to Puccini's "Nessun Dorma."

Director Michael Dowse does, however, show how badly people can get hurt, which is more than I can say for most action filmmakers. If the premise — that gratuitous violence has its place — doesn't offend you too much, Goon is a good time. It's sort of like a version of Ferdinand the Bull where fighting empowers Ferdinand, if you can imagine such a thing.

Other New Releases You May Have Missed

  • Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes brings us a daring modern interpretation of one of Shakespeare's more "difficult" plays, about a proto-fascist warmonger and his discontents. Rick didn't like it. I did. More reviews.)
  • Memorial Day (multigenerational patriotic war drama with James Cromwell)
  • Norwegian Wood (Japanese adaptation of the Murakami novel)
  • Silver Tongues (Lee Tergesen plays one of a pair of con artists)
  • "True Blood," season 4
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (Tilda Swinton goes toe-to-toe with her sociopathic kid in this art-slash-horror film.)

Each week in "Movies You Missed," I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)

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