Guess who's home sick today, writing about not necessarily the greatest movie he's seen, but the last one, simply because he has the time?
Goon, starring Seann William Scott, is about a simple man brought on to a minor league hockey team to start (and win) fights. It's based on the real-life Doug Smith, who played for several minor league hockey teams for the same reason in the late eighties and nineties.
As usual, a lot of the details are changed for the sake of the narrative, but in this case, I'm glad, because the real life story is a little less interesting than the film. The whole thing takes place in northeastern Canada, and highlights cities like Halifax and St. John's, which don't get a lot of the Hollywood spotlight. The real life story took place entirely in the states. Blah. Hockey stories *should* take place in Canada.
Scott's character is a lovable oaf, who starts the film as a bouncer at a bar. He gets into a fight with a player at a hockey game and knocks him out, drawing the attention of the coach, who eventually gets him a job as an enforcer (or "goon") with the Halifax Highlanders, a player who is brought on exclusively to protect and take out other players. The climax of the film comes when he has to face Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a former NHL enforcer, now in the minors at the end of his career, and Doug's hero.
Scott reminds me of Sandler in Punch Drunk Love--in that he's portraying a character that resembles somewhat his one-dimensional dimwitted characters from other films, but played with significantly more depth and sensitivity. Scott does a great job of creating a character at whose foibles you chuckle, but with whom you are ultimately able to empathize. He's perhaps a bit too romanticized in places, but honestly, it's still refreshing. Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim, Confessions of a Drama Queen--two movies film club members may have seen her in) is adorable as the love interest. The romance itself adds some heart but isn't really necessary, though at least doesn't fall along your typical romance/comedy ruts. You know they're going to get together by the end, but the way they go about it is entertaining, and, again, refreshing. Jay Baruchel is a little overbearing as the best friend, but isn't overused in the film and doesn't distract too much from the primary focus of the story, Doug Glatt trying to find self-respect and dignity using skills that don't necessarily lend themselves to it.
Goon is a lighthearted film that you can escape into, but that doesn't insult its audience. It's cute and heartwarming and it knows it, but it's taken a lot of effort to be so and really wants you to notice, because, frankly, it cares about giving you a good experience. It knows that you probably won't go on another date, but really appreciates the time you spent together and will remember you fondly, and hopes that you will too. And who knows, when you're sick and tired of all the other crap, you just might give it a call again, just to see how it's doing, and, maybe...well, it doesn't want to get ahead of itself.
P.S. I gave it four stars on Flixster.
P.P.S. It's on Netflix streaming.