By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
Nobody plays a dunderhead quite like Seann William Scott. Stretching back to 1999’s American Pie, the amount of dimwitted characters he’s played probably outnumbers any of those characters’ individual IQs.
In Goon, Scott is at it again, playing the sweet but dim Doug Glatt, a Boston nightclub bouncer turned Canadian minor league ice hockey enforcer (or, as the position is referred to in hockey jargon, “the Goon”). Bookended by vibrant red drops of blood splashing on ice as a tooth, in slo-mo, falls from some hapless victim’s mouth, the film jumps into the fray with Doug, as spectator, finds himself in the middle of a punch-fest during a local hockey game. Next thing he knows, the coach asks Doug to try out for the team. But there’s a problem: our hero doesn’t know how to skate. However, this small impediment doesn’t stop the coach from sending Doug up to a professional minor league team in Halifax. It turns out that since Doug is only needed for his fists, staying upright on the ice is a minimal issue at best.
Inspired by the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith – recounting Smith’s stumble into hockey at the age of 19 – this screenplay combines Smith with a blended character from co-writer/actor Jay Baruchel’s own past. And it may be that this amalgam is a contributing factor to the uneven sensibility of the film. As written by Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express), and directed by Michael Dowse (Take Me Home Tonight), the tone of the film swings as wide as a hockey stick.
It’s initially a raucous, wildly funny look at grown boys talking trash, loving sports and beer, led by the hyper Pat (Jay Baruchel) as Doug’s cursing, motor-mouthed best friend. But when Pat jumps out of the story, the insane comic energy goes with him. While the violence of the sport is unrelenting – often to the point of such overreach that it seems we’ve tripped into a cinematic rendition of a highly-graphic graphic novel – we get disparate patches of depression, anger, operatic high drama (Turandot, anyone?) family dysfunction and masochism.
On the upside of the head, Scott does a wonderful job as Doug the Thug, depicting “the nicest guy you’ll ever fight.” Without, um, hitting it too hard, we get the fact that his brain may be a bit soft due to all the blows he’s taken in the past. Speaking in overly-polite, halting syllables, Doug is the sad Jewish son of a family of doctors, internalizing his parents’ embarrassment at his lack of intelligence. And when he falls for the hockey-loving, sexually adventurous Eva (Alison Pill), his substandard verbal skills devolve into near grunts.
Unfortunately, the downside of Goon is substantial. Other than the spotty tone referenced above, we have Zamboni-sized chunks of illogic. Example: On the day of the biggest game of the season, Doug decides there’s no better time to invite Eva’s ex-boyfriend to pummel the bejesus out of him. Or, in a slap of character inconsistency, the normally tongue-tied Doug suddenly has no problem confronting his father (Eugene Levy), clearly enunciating his innermost feelings as he states without a single stutter, “You should be proud of me.”
Usually relegated to the second banana or co-lead, here Scott admirably steps into the spotlight as the leading man. Other notable performances come from Alison Pill as the wonderfully appealing love interest (quirky and honest to a fault), and Kim Coates as the no-nonsense coach. Baruchel creates a black hole when he’s absent and Levy doesn’t get enough screen time. But the head-scratching moment comes via Liev Schreiber, playing a legendary, dissipated Goon. Schreiber? Why? Did he lose a bet?
As the titular Goon, Doug Glatt has everyone’s back. Sadly, the film doesn’t return the favor.
Rating on a scale of 5 mother-puckers: 2.5
Release date: March 30, 2012 (ltd.; wider release 4/13/12)
Directed by: Michael Dowse
Screenplay by: Jay Baruchel & Evan Goldberg
Inspired by the book “Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey” by Adam Frattasio & Doug Smith
Cast: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Marc-André Grondin, Kim Coates, Eugene Levy, Liev Schreiber
Running Time: 92 minutes