Review: Crude comedy ‘Goon’ still has its share of heart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – In films including “Role Models,” “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and the “American Pie” series, the focus has been so heavy on crude humor that you might not have noticed that Seann William Scott is built like a fireplug, from his broad, tough face to his thick torso.
Not quite as hidden, but not exactly obvious, either, is that the 35-year-old, for all the offensive, repulsive gags he finds himself in the middle of, is an enormously likable screen presence. There was good reason his Steve “Stifmeister” Stifler went from a minor character in the first “American Pie” to the central role in “American Wedding.”
Scott’s physique seems to be the reason he was cast to star in “Goon,” a comedy about a minor-league hockey “enforcer” – that is, a member of a hockey team who is not a hockey player, exactly, but a brawler whose job is to protect his teammates by beating up the opponents. Scott is big and rugged-looking enough to be plausible in the role; as a bonus, he was raised in Minnesota, so presumably he knows something about hockey.
But it is Scott’s agreeable personality that makes “Goon” work at all. “Goon” – by Canadian director Michael Dowse and adapted from a book by Doug Smith, a real-life boxer turned hockey player – is aggressively foul-minded and vulgar, unleashing penis jokes, yo’ mama jokes, gay jokes and bodily-fluid gags beyond the point of exhaustion. If you thought high school was a vibrant breeding ground for testosterone-fueled dirty humor, wait till you see a minor-league hockey locker room. (“Slap Shot,” the 1977 hockey comedy to which it is inevitably compared, is pure innocence by comparison.)
Beyond the coarse punch lines, there are the crude punches: “Goon” is about a guy who beats and bloodies others and won’t apologize for it. Over dinner in a restaurant, Scott’s Doug Glatt pleads for his father (Eugene Levy, Scott’s “American Pie” co-star) to be proud of his accomplishments.
Scott rises above all this, but just barely. Glatt doesn’t revel in beating people to a bloody pulp (despite showing it repeatedly in gory visual detail). But in a family of Jewish doctors, he became a bouncer. As hockey goon “Doug the Thug,” however, he is a celebrity in small-city Halifax, Nova Scotia. Moreover, he has purposeful work: He takes the job of protecting his teammates seriously. Off the ice, he develops a crush on a girl (Alison Pill) who admits to being a floozy. (Funniest line in the movie, from Pill to Doug: “You make me want to stop sleeping with a bunch of guys.”)
Also helping to elevate “Goon” is the unlikely appearance of Liev Schreiber as Ross Rhea, a legend among goons. The scene where Doug and Ross meet features such good dramatic acting, and such a change in the film’s tone, it is startling.
The cliches abound, the jokes are crude without being funny, the violence is brutal, and the point of the story eludes me. But Scott skates through amiably, showing a lot of heart.
“Goon” shows Thursday at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen.
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