A sequel to Of Mice and Men one minute and Slap Shot the next, Goon is the story of a sunny idiot who slugs and stammers his way through Quebec and Maritime arenas, dreaming about a beautiful, unattainable girl.
Instead, all Doug (The Thug) Glatt gets are elbows and sticks in the kisser.
What a disappointment. Written by Jay Baruchel, a Montrealer who knows hockey, and Vancouver’s Evan Goldberg ( Superbad), you’d figure Goon would be a funny, knowing take on our national obsession. And that it might have something to say about how marginally talented players love hockey so much they’re willing to destroy their bodies, even the game they cherish, to make it as a pro.
But Goon doesn’t even know funny. How else to explain casting Eugene Levy, Hollywood’s ripest second banana, as Doug’s disapproving dad, then not giving him one good scene? It’s like keeping Sidney Crosby on the bench during a power play.
A New England bouncer, Doug (Seann William Scott) clobbers a hockey player who charges the stands. Though he can’t skate, not even a little, Doug is given a tryout. “You’ve been touched with the fist of God,” his new coach (Nicholas Campbell) declares.
Meanwhile, best friend Ryan (Baruchel) talks Doug up on a cable show devoted to hockey fights and homophobic rants. (Really, there is enough gay bashing in Goon to reboot Andrew Dice Clay’s career.)
With all the publicity, Doug is promoted to Canada and the Halifax Highlanders, where his job is to protect a free-falling, first-round NHL draft pick, a Francophone who can’t take a hit … unless it’s a line of coke up his girlfriend’s naked torso.
Soon, Doug falls dreamily in love with Eva (Alison Pill), a bookish student who receives a narcotic thrill watching hockey and can’t help loving Doug, even though he’s an imbecile, because, well, he’s a hockey player, but also because he’s pure and sweet and thoughtful.
“There’s a light on inside my stomach,” Doug says.
Doug’s gift, his curse too, is that he sees the best in people. He feels welcomed by the sport and team exploiting him. “This is the first time I ever belonged to anything,” he says. Eva turns away because she can’t stand to see what will happen next.
This is all token piety, a Gideon Bible in a motel night table. More often than not, Goon is just another boys’ after-pub flick – Dude, Where’s My Movie? It’s Canucks trading punches and quips in the corner of the rink; European players with Borat accents humping abandoned goalie masks in the dressing room.
Only it’s not particularly funny. Call it Unsuperbad.
The film does have one interesting, committed performance. Liev Schreiber turns up as Doug’s ultimate sparring partner, Ross (The Boss) Rhea. He’s the toughest, smartest player in the minors, a wise old pro who knows he’s punching the clock as much as other players.
In the movie’s best scene, the two hockey fighters meet by chance late one night in a diner. “You know they just want you to bleed, right?” Rhea tells Doug. And then explains that hockey goons, like hookers, are not so much paid for what they do, but because they go away quietly afterwards.
Special to The Globe and Mail
- Directed by Michael Dowse
- Written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg
- Starring Seann William Scott, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber, Jay Baruchel, Eugene Levy
- Classification: 18A
- 2 stars