Sometimes the experience of watching a movie is entirely dependent on the circumstances in which you watch it. Maybe your grandmother just died and you decided to watch Pixar’s Up for the first time and you have to pause the movie 10 minutes in so you can go commit suicide. Maybe you’re tired and preoccupied thinking about work tomorrow and the screener of Melancholia that you torrented to your laptop is so completely underwhelming that you fall asleep on the couch before you even get to the bit with Kirsten Dunst’s naked boobs.
Or maybe you’re a big hockey fan and decided to get drunk with your friends, smuggle a 6-pack of beer into the theatre, and watch Goon. (Notice the British spelling of “theatre” and the phrase “big hockey fan”. Could I make it any more obvious how Canadian I am? … Just watch me.) Goon is the brainchild of Canadian actor Jay Baruchel and Superbad writer Evan Goldberg, loosely based on Doug Smith’s memoir Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey (co-written with Adam Frattasio). Goon stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a hockey-loving (but non-skating) American bouncer recruited to play as a minor league hockey “enforcer” in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For the uninitiated, an enforcer (or goon) is a player whose primary value lies not in his ability to score goals, but his ability to beat the shit out of the other team.
You don’t have to be a hockey fan or a Canadian to enjoy this film (though it certainly helps). But with Evan Goldberg bringing his Superbad/Pineapple Express expertise to the screenplay, the film is successful both as a loving caricature of the peculiar subculture of Canadian minor-league hockey AND as a surface-level testosterone-fueled comedy that anyone can enjoy. The script hits all the right notes and, as formulaic as it may be, it is nonetheless a very satisfying film to watch. Director Michael Dowse (known for his uber-Canadian Fubar films and the spectacular UK-techno-trance-mock-doc It’s All Gone Pete Tong) is in top form as he milks crude-but-polite Canadian humour from his actors. Taking cues from 1977’s seminal hockey-and-Paul-Newman film Slap Shot, Dowse keeps the pace of the film at the same steady, hard-hitting pace as the hockey games the filmmakers so clearly love.
Seann William Scott’s career has had its ups and downs (mostly downs) since he left Stifler behind, but this film deserves a good box office showing and, with any luck, will bring a rejuvenation for the career of a solid comic actor. A stellar supporting cast helps him out, including Liev Shcreiber, Eugene Levy, Alison Pill, Kim Coates, Nicholas Campbell and Marc-André Grondin, all of whom have called Canada home at some point. Schreiber, in fact, is the only non-Canadian of the bunch. But little moments like Schreiber growling “I will lay you the fuck out” with a distinctly Canadian twang make me appreciate Dowse’s attention to Canadian detail. Even the “goalie from Regina” (Montreal actor Jonathan Cherry) barks out his lines with an impeccable Saskatchewan accent (which, as a native Moose Javian, I feel qualified to judge).
This film is just a hell of a lot of fun. Enjoy the fuck out of it.
Verdict: Not to be taken seriously. Or orally.
Medium: Scotiabank Theatre, Vancouver. 1st viewing.
Rating: 4 stars.