I've never followed hockey, and I have only a rudimentary knowledge of its rules. But I do know that hockey means fistfights, which are technically illegal, but are integral to how the game is played, whether it's protecting teammates, intimidating opponents, or removing them from games by drawing them into penalties or breaking their faces. Fighting is so important to hockey that, for some players, acting as enforcers, bodyguards, and instigators is their primary function. The new movie Goon is inspired by the true story of one of these brawlers, and despite the fact that I probably couldn't name five active hockey players if you held a gun to my head, I have to tell you that Goon is the funniest movie I've seen so far in 2012.
Watch the trailer for Goon below.
Seann William Scott (that's Stifler from the American Pie movies) plays Doug Glatt, a bouncer at a Boston bar who's the screw-up in a high-achieving Jewish family. Despite being dumb as a rock, Doug is smart enough to share his family's disappointment and frustration that he hasn't achieved more in his life. When Doug attends a minor league hockey game and handily annihilates a visiting player who charges into the stands, the coach of the home team is impressed enough with Doug's preternatural pummeling skills to invite him on the team, even though Doug knows nothing about hockey and can't even skate. But after getting a crash course from his hockey-obsessed buddy, Pat (co-writer Jay Baruchel), Doug is unleashed on the league, laying waste to everyone he's pointed at.
It soon becomes obvious to fans, Doug's fellow players, and especially to Doug, that his ability to destroy anyone makes him truly special, so he's promoted to a spiraling semi-pro team in Canada and given the job of protecting their former star player, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) who's become gun-shy and unfocused after taking a devastating, nearly career-ending hit from hockey's most feared enforcer, Ross "the Boss" Rhea (a marvelously mustachioed Liev Schreiber). As Doug "the Thug" and his unstoppable ass-kicking inspires his team into the win column, it's inevitable that his path of destruction lead to a showdown with Ross "The Boss," who knows that ending his career as the baddest man on skates will mean taking Doug out.
What makes Goon so damn funny is that Doug, despite his talent for destruction, is as dopey and sweet as a golden retriever. His beatdowns don't come from anger, but from his desire to help his team and his genuine excitement and growing pride that he's found something he's good at. He's incredibly nice and seemingly too dumb to be dishonest, which comes out endearingly in his relationship with Eva, a hockey fan played by Alison Pill who develops a mutual crush on Doug but wants to keep him at a distance to protect Doug from her history of infidelity.
Even though it's a while before we meet Doug's Canadian team, a mix of good writing and acting quickly establishes the team's vibe, the distinct personalities that makes them such losers, and why their coach (Kim Coates) is tearing his hair out. And one of Goon's biggest and most welcome surprises is the relationship that forms between Doug and LaFlamme, who's initially annoyed at being paired with such an idiot, but begins to soften as he realizes how far Doug is willing to go for his team.
Naturally, the great joy of Goon is watching this lovable, eager-to-please oaf destroying everyone in his way, sort of like a happy-go-lucky Lenny from Of Mice and Mengrapes
. But there's humor and heart in every part of Goon as Doug uses extreme violence to be of service to his teammates, be a part of something bigger than himself, and hopefully earn his parents' respect. I was smiling and laughing my ass off for the entire movie, and I can only imagine how much more I'd love it if I actually cared about hockey (Goon opened at #1 in Canada). Goon seems to be the rightful heir to the legacy of 1977's Slap Shot, which also celebrated violence in minor league hockey, and I'm certain that Goon will be enjoyed by hockey fans everywhere for years to come.