By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the spirit of the old joke (“I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”), we now have a corollary: I went to a hockey flick and a comedy broke out.
It’s called Goon. It’s vivid and vulgar and violent and very entertaining, and it registers as the second-best hockey movie ever made.
That’s both a compliment (to be recognized as the runner-up to Slap Shot) and an acknowledgement of its limitations, given that the hockey-movie genre is severely underpopulated: Goon leaves The Mighty Ducks far behind and does arguable quality battle with Miracle and Mystery, Alaska.
Goon accepts and showcases the brutality that is part of the sport’s appeal and yet manages to package itself in a way that allows for a surprising amount of charm and poignancy.
Seann William Scott, in his showiest role yet, stars as Doug Glatt, a mild-mannered Massachusetts bar bouncer who discovers more or less accidentally that he has a penchant for fierce fisticuffs.
When Glatt comes to the aid of his best buddy, an epithet-spewing motormouth (played by Jay Baruchel), at a semi-pro hockey game and beats his tormentor silly, the hometown coach notices. He invites Doug to join his team in the capacity referred to in the film’s title.
He is not to do much in the way of skating and scoring because he’s bereft of those particular skills. Instead, he’s to serve as the team’s bully, its muscle, its enforcer, its policeman — when called upon, he’ll drop the gloves, then take on and bust up whichever member of the opposition has had the bad judgment to rough up one of Doug’s teammates.
And even before he becomes a fan favorite, he’ll earn a nickname: “Doug the Thug.”
Then he gets a call from Canada and is recruited by a major league farm team, the Halifax Highlanders of Nova Scotia, who want him to serve as their enforcer as they make a push to make the playoffs.
This brings him into contact with a hockey groupie, played by Alison Pill, whom he instantly falls for and politely pursues despite her warnings about her tendencies and her boyfriend.
And he would appear to have a date of reckoning with the league’s reigning goon, a brooding hulk played commandingly by Liev Schreiber.
Scott is terrific. His Glatt is a revelation — a sweet, self-acknowledged dimwit, the son of two Jewish doctors (underutilized Eugene Levy plays his dad) and the brother of another. He has no accomplishments to trumpet, the way his loved ones do. He just happens to be a lights-out, bare-knuckled brawler who has been, as one character puts it, “touched by the fist of God.”
Scott, best known for playing the iconic Stifler in the American Pie series, plays this unusual combination of sweet innocence and bruising strength in a way that makes him both endearing and convincing, and uses that broad, goofy smile of his to real winning advantage.
The hat trick of a script — written by Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, who adapted the book, Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and real-life hockey enforcer Doug Smith — wins the shootout with an array of earthy, R-rated, laugh-out-loud moments.
Canadian director Michael Dowse (Fubar, It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Take Me Home Tonight) spills lots of blood, but appropriately so, with screwball violence that is to violence as screwball comedy is to comedy.
And local hockey fans may get a kick out of the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers — the Broad Street Bullies an obvious inspiration — are visually referenced in the uniforms and logos of the teams depicted.
So we’ll fill the penalty box with 3 stars out of 4 for Goon, a wickedly funny sports comedy on ice that sees hockey as boxing on skates.