I like Jay Baruchel a lot. I think he's a funny, sweet young guy and have enjoyed him in everything that I've seen him in (from the likes of Knocked Up and Fanboys to She's Out Of My League to The Sorcerer's Apprentice and the animated delight of How To Train Your Dragon). So hearing the praise that was heaped upon Goon when it started doing the rounds really made me hope I would enjoy it and be able to recommend it to others. Baruchel has a role in the movie but, more importantly for his career path, he also co-wrote the screenplay with Evan Goldberg (based on the book "Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey" by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith).
The story is a standard, simple tale and one that we've seen many times before. With a slight twist. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a young man who doesn't really have a "thing" in life except being able to take a punch and really give back as good as he gets, and then some. When he's spotted by a manager at a hockey game his life takes a major upturn and he's signed up to play hockey. It doesn't matter that he isn't actually all that good at hockey. It simply matters that he gets on the ice when required and causes some bruising to the players that need kept out of action for a while. Jay Bruchel plays the friend who loves seeing his buddy make good, Eugene Levy is the stereotypical Jewish father unimpressed by this turn of events, Alison Pill is a potential love interest and Liev Schreiber is the former biggest badass on the ice who fans want to see in one titanic battle with Doug "The Thug".
Director Michael Dowse hits all of the right notes as this movie runs through all of the sports movie cliches but when things step up a notch in the second half he really serves the material well. As unexpected as it was, I was literally close to tears during the grand finale.
As the different posters stated, Doug is "dumb as a puck" and also "the nicest guy you'll ever fight" and it's a role that really needs a sweetness at the centre, hidden beneath the mass of punches and bloodhsed and bruises, and Seann William Scott gives his best performance yet. Cynics may say that it's not hard for Scott to top his past performances but it would be unfair to the man to try and damn this performance with faint praise. It's a captivating lead performance and something that may remain an all-time career high. The rest of the cast all acquit themselves equally well. Jay Baruchel is as enjoyable as ever, while the same can easily be said of Alison Pill and Eugene Levy. Marc-Andre Grondin, Richard Clarkin, Jonathan Cherry, Kim Coates and everyone else involved with the hockey team do well with their various highs and lows while everything takes on more of an edge whenever Liev Schreiber comes onscreen to warn the sweethearted Doug of the shape of things to come.
The script IS good but it's good in the way that it balances the really revealing character moments with the expected lashings of violence. There's just as much here that you won't expect mixed in with everything that you've sat through 100 times before but even the cornier moments and the cliches feel fresher and more enjoyable because of that wonderful central performance.
Goon is certainly not a standard sports movie to recommend to everyone but I hope that it finds an audience that will give it a home and keep introducing it to others whenever possible. Just like the lead character, it's a rough and ready piece that deserves some praise and love.