To qualify the Jay Baruchel/Evan Goldberg-penned Goon as anything less than surprising would be a vast understatement. Perhaps a bit of this initial reaction owes to the fact that Goon came and went in a whisper. When it opened--and perhaps we should utilize a different word entirely, as it "opened" in 241 theaters, and I'm guessing exactly zero of those theaters had it playing on multiple screens--I saw Jay Baruchel and Seann William Scott on two talk shows. I think. Then again, the $4,088,686 that it did at the box office makes it the sixth-highest grossing film that Magnolia Pictures has ever released, so I guess this is all to be expected.
When sitting down with my boys and deciding what to watch on demand, it didn't take long to settle on an R-rated sports comedy. We only knew it was about a hockey goon and who wrote it. Almost instantaneously, we were laughing our asses off so hard that we were missing lines and rewinding the film to re-watch sequences.
Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt a bouncer-cum-enforcer who draws the attention by kicking the shit out of a hockey player who climbs out of the penalty box to attack his mouthy friend, Ryan, played by Baruchel. Incensed at hearing the player hurling the epithet 'faggot' at Ryan, Doug--whose brother is gay--takes on the player with his thorough drubbing of the Artestian foil culminating in Doug head-butting the helmeted player and shattering the helmet. This episode gets at the beauty of the film. Goon is lewd to say the least, but, in Doug, Baruchel and Goldberg have penned a lead who is capable of excessively brutal violence but does so with an ingrained sense of honor that allows for the violence to be committed with a modicum of redemption and justification. Doug is a simple man--innocent, honorable, selfless, and protective. He is sweet at his core. It is easy to like Doug.
But it's not just Doug that works here. Like many of the best sports movies, Goon takes place in the world of minor league sports. The buses are shitty. The sport is essentially lawless. The money is nonexistent. Minor league and semi-pro sports sit on the fringe of society. This world is inherently more interesting than the lush life of a full-fledged professional athlete, and it is much more fruitful in the realm of comedy. The world of Goon is both interesting and fun.
To speak more of this film without paying Seann William Scott his due would be doing him a disservice. He is the heart of this film. If Doug isn't likable, Goon fails. He isn't simply likable. He is a noble brute, a kind soul, and a selfless warrior. He imbues Doug with an innocence and sincerity that plays spectacularly well. The film would still be funny without this, but it wouldn't be nearly as affective without it.
While the character of Doug Glatt is a large ingredient in the success of the film, it has plenty of other things going for it. Baruchel is almost impossibly lewd. The violence is uproariously funny. Liev Schreiber is great as the elder goon, serving as both Doug's inspiration and a vision of his future. When all is said and done, Goon is director Michael Dowse's second comedy in a year that is better than expected following on the heels of Take Me Home Tonight.