Movie Review: “Goon” (2011)

Michael Dowse’s “Goon” is a hilariously gladiatorial man-poem to semi-pro hockey, adeptly cast and executed. “Goon” is everything a film about a bumbling Hockey enforcer, or Goon with a heart of gold should be. The tale of Doug Glatt is a role primed for the affectionately dense Stiflerisms of Seann William Scott – minus the attitude. It was the most uproarious screening to attend at the 34th Starz Denver Film Festival, courtesy of Keith Garcia’s Watching Hour.

Doug Glatt’s date with destiny is a mythological rise into the Canadian semi-pros, loosely based on a true story. Glatt is dimwitted, can’t skate, working a shitty bouncer job while disappointing his Jewish dad who wants him to be a doctor, but soon finds he is “touched by the fist of God.” When he defends a rambunctious buddy mouthing off at a hockey game from a player who charges from the penalty box, Glatt’s fists of fury catch the eye of a local coach.

“Goon” was scripted by Evan Goldberg (“Superbad,” “Pineapple Express”) and comedic actor Jay Baruchel, who also stars as Glatt’s wisecracking-perv of a best friend. Baruchel and Goldberg adapted it from Doug Smith’s autobiographical book, co-written with Adam Frattasio, “Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey.” They put it in the apt hockey-fan hands of Canadian director Michael Dowse (“Fubar,” “Take Me Home Tonight”).

Baruchel is a riot, if you relish in lewd, scatological antics, as Glatt’s buddy who runs a cable-access type hockey show. It reunites Scott with “American Pie” Dad, Eugene Levy (“Best in Show,” “SCTV”), which seems to serve as the only convincingly Jewish thing about Doug Glatt, aside from chasing a wind-blown yarmulke.

There is also a sidelined love story between Glatt and Eva, a promiscuous townie, thrown in with no consequence or justification. Though, Eva’s character is easily embraced in a gracefully crass performance from the adorable Allison Pill (“Milk,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”). There relationship is stupidly forced script-wise, but has a chemistry that is close to the sensation of pop-rocks – sweet, but tickled with fizz.

“Goon” is ultimately a composite of unforgettably spunky characters, with enough hilarity and scenes on the ice that border on operatic, to make it a phenomenon. The phenomenal is weighed heavily on the performance of Liev Schreiber (“Scream,” “X-Men Origins”) as Ross Rhea. Rhea is a veteran Goon on an opposing team, who facing retirement, will either quash or qualify Glatt as a force to be reckoned with on the ice.

There is also an announcer whose cynical wisecracks give a play by play narrative that conjures memories of Bob Uecker’s classic announcer in “Major League.” The announcer, like Uecker, gives no insight on the game, reinforcing that this isn’t revealing a greater philosophy of hockey. The announcer, Ross Rhea and Glatt give the fans, and the audience, what they want: An unlikely hero who rises to the challenge and unites his team with enough skull bashed teeth spitting to feed a blood thirsty mob. It is in the sequence that bookmarks the film, set to Puccini’s aria from “Turandot,” that the fallen, bloodied tooth, elevates “Goon” to cinematic heights.

Originally published on Mile High Cinema coverage of the Starz Denver Film Festival.

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