|I'd want this guy on my team.|
As I was watching Goon, I found myself thinking about a couple other sports films: Major League and Slap Shot. And it wasn’t because those were better or worse; it was because I was reminded of how much fun I had watching those movies for the first time. Sometimes when people like me, who spend a lot of time writing movie reviews for our seldom read blogs, watch movies, we often forget why we watch them. We’re so busy looking for an angle, trying to process what we’re seeing so we can write about it, that we forget the simple pleasure of watching a movie.
Goon is not the best picture of the year, and it may not be on my top 10 when the year wraps up, but it may wind up being the most fun I’ve had watching a movie this year. I quickly became absorbed in its simple story, fell in love with its clearly drawn characters, and found myself rooting for the outcome, even as I knew where the story was headed. There’s no deep thematic content here, nothing really to think about; Goon is just a damn good sports movie, exciting, funny, and sincere.
Seann William Scott plays the role of Doug Glatt, who begins the film as a bouncer at a New England bar. He hates his life because he realizes he has nothing that makes him special, nothing to make his devout Jewish parents proud of him. His life changes one night when he and his foul-mouthed friend, Ryan (Jay Baruchel), go to a minor league hockey game and Doug gets into a fight with one of the players on the opposing team during the game. Doug kicks the hockey player’s ass, and in grand movie fashion, soon becomes the enforcer of the local team.
Doug has “it,” of course, that unquantifiable characteristic of the best movie athletes, and even though he can’t skate well, and doesn’t really understand the ins-and-outs of hockey, he becomes good enough to get promoted to a higher level of minor league puck. Along the way, Doug encounters quirky new teammates, meets his lady love, and gets sized up by a retiring goon looking for one more fight. The conventions are all in place, but thanks to a clever script, and Scott’s fine performance as the sweetest dumbass ever, Goon won me over.
Scott’s performance carries Goon. He plays Doug was such earnestness that’s I find it sort of amazing that this film was produced in 2012 and not 30 years ago. Usually, when we see characters that are easily identifiable as “stupid” (re: Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy), we’re inclined to make fun of them, or (re: Michael Orr in The Blind Side) feel sorry of them. Because Doug is self-aware, and because Scott doesn’t overplay his oblivious side, he’s easy to like and root for.
The movie’s weakest element is its depiction of the hockey action, except for the on-ice fighting. There’s no consistency in the hockey action, little sense of game time, and no rhyme or reason to the referee’s rule enforcement. But that’s a minor issue, as the movie isn’t about a team winning a big game so much as it is about how a dumb goon changed the attitudes and culture of everyone he knew. It’s also about putting a big smile on your face, and I think it will do a pretty good job of that, too.