I've got to say, when I saw the original trailer for "Goon" and that it was starring Seann William Scott, I wasn't expecting much. It seems like there's been a long run of hockey movies that have been pretty awful. According to Box Office Mojo, the top grossing hockey movie since 1977 is "Miracle," but only 4 million dollars behind it is "Tooth Fairy." We all loved seeing a bunch of no ones from Alaska beat the Rangers, but like most hockey movies it was pretty dreadful.
When it comes to hockey movies, there's one movie that stands head and shoulders above the rest: Slap Shot. I shouldn't even have to explain why, and if you haven't seen it yet stop wasting your time and watch it now. Starring Paul Newman, in what was reportedly his favorite role, and a lot of bit players in perfect roles like Brad Sullivan. Slap Shot is easily one of the most beloved hockey movies of all time, the golden ring that just about every hockey movie should be reaching for.
"Goon," which will be on video on demand and screen "in select cities," does admirably in reaching for that ring, and surprisingly comes the closest of any hockey movie in the last 20 years.
Seann William Scott stars as Doug Glatt, a likable doofus hockey fan who works as a bouncer. His cousin is his best buddy, who also does a horrible cable access show about hockey. The cousin is by far the most annoying character in the movie, so fortunately he isn't in it much. The cousin's big annoying mouth touches off the movie, as he annoys a player into climbing the boards and attacking the crowd.
When Doug drops the attacking player the crowd goes wild. The following day while on his cousin's show, Doug gets a call from the coach of his local team about giving it a try.
Of course Doug has barely ever skated before, and his first practice consists of beating up half his teammates while on his knees. This is one of my favorite aspects of the movie, there's never any moment where Doug magically gets better at the game. He can do just enough to stay standing on his skates, and even that looks like a challenge for most of the movie. Instead it's his willingness to bleed for his teammates and give it his all that inspires everyone around him.
After a few games with his local team, he gets called up to a league that is considered just under the NHL. Interestingly it's logo looks a lot like the ECHL logo. The Halifax Highlanders have a problem. The star of the team is Xavier LaFlamme, a Quebec born hockey player and former first overall pick that can do magical things with the puck. During his rookie season he was laid out by goon Ross "The Boss" Rhea and hasn't been the same player since. The hookers and blow also seem to be taking a toll on LaFlamme. So Doug's job is to protect LaFlamme because there is too much invested in him.
Meanwhile Rhea has been handed down a 20 game suspension for a Marty McSorely type incident. Following the end of his suspension, Rhea is sent down to the minors. He's playing for the St John's Shamrocks, the same team he played with when he was beginning his career. Rhea is played by Liev Schreiber, who plays the old goon role perfectly. If you've already guessed that Rhea and Doug cross paths close to the end of the movie, congrats your good at guessing how movies end.
I'm trying not to spoil the movie, and there's a lot of subplots going on at once with Doug. But I really hate when a reviewer spoils the plot for the whole movie. The movie starts out a bit slow until Doug joins the Highlanders. The Highlanders are just as interesting a motley crew that the Chiefs were in Slap Shot. Not only is the goalie weird (his helmet artwork includes his moms face) but he's a lover of painkillers. The Russians love to mess with everyone. The Captain is old and wise, but most of his speeches degrade into rants about his ex-wife taking everything.
Other than Miracle, this is probably one of the best hockey movies to come out since Slap Shot. It does well balancing the humorous moments with the serious ones. Doug going to the Highlanders doesn't suddenly turn them into a championship team, as they have to scrape and claw to try and win the 8th seed. The movie doesn't end with Doug scoring the game winning goal on a last second penalty shot. The Highlanders don't go on to win the championship. Not all the conclusions to the subplots are the normal happy Hollywood ending.
Maybe it was because I wasn't expecting much, but Goon far exceeded my expectations. It's a solid hockey film that doesn't hit a lot of the normal hockey cliches. If your a hockey fan, it's at the very least worth spending a few bucks to catch it OnDemand. I'd probably even recommend it to non-hockey fans who have a good sense of humor. it's too bad they couldn't get a major release for this, especially with some of the crap they've been shoveling into theaters this Feburary and March.