Seann William Scott Skates Through Funny ‘Goon’

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Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Seann William Scott gives a surprisingly engaging, even sweet performance as the title character in the brutal, raunchy hockey comedy “Goon,” written by “Superbad” scribe Evan Goldberg and comedy actor Jay Baruchel. This “Slap Shot meets Fight Club” is a definite must-see for hockey fans but feels a little too slight for everyone else. Still, there’s a lot to like here, especially for those who want an interesting alternative On Demand (it’s already available there and opening in Chicago theaters today, March 30th, 2012).

I’ve never been quite sure what to think of Scott as an actor. What he pulled off in that first “American Pie” movie made him an overnight sensation but we’ve all seen that most of the actors from those comedies never topped its pop cultural peak. But Scott didn’t go away, making some smart choices by appearing in some memorable dumb comedies – “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” “Old School,” “The Rundown,” “Role Models”. He popped up in the “Ice Age” movies and probably made an easy fortune there and then started appearing in some truly interesting oddities like “Southland Tales” and “The Promotion.” Still, “Role Models” was three years ago and I wondered if Scott had another act in him. Enter “Goon,” arguably the actor’s best performance to date.

Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

Scott stars in the “based on a true story” tale of Doug Glatt, a small-town bouncer with a disapproving father (Eugene Levy) and simple expectations of life. Choosing to play Glatt as more of a self-aware sweetheart with a wicked right hook than an over-confident boob with an anger issue, Scott turns Glatt into a likable, relatable guy. He’s convinced that he doesn’t have the smarts or the skills to climb too far up the ladder of life but he seems OK with that. Until he goes to a hockey game with his buddy Pat (Baruchel) on a fateful evening. A player tires of Pat’s taunting and climbs into the stands, throwing gay slurs around on his way up. Doug has a gay brother. He’s not OK with that. He beats the hockey player to a bloody pulp and the coach notices, asking Glatt to try out for the team even though he can’t really skate or shoot. They could use an enforcer.

Before you know it, Glatt has been called up to the Halifax Highlanders, where he’s been asked to essentially protect their former golden boy Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin). Laflamme has become skittish after getting knocked the f- out by the legendary Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a tough guy on his way down the career ladder. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Glatt meets Rhea in the film’s climax but there’s a cute romantic subplot along the way involving the incredibly charming Alison Pill (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) as Eva.

Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

“Goon” is hard-R comedy aimed most directly at hockey-loving, beer-swilling dudes. I think Baruchel throws out more f-bombs than the rest of his career combined and the dirty talk among hockey players is pitched to eleven. Interestingly, Glatt usually stays above the fray, serving almost as the straight man for the more extreme personalities that surround him. Scott does fantastic work grounding the character instead of turning him into the caricature that he could have become. This is a guy who didn’t think he was very good at anything and found out that he could play a role on the ice and maybe even get the girl. Scott carries the movie by presenting his journey as one that comes as a surprise to him as well as the rest of the world.

“Goon” is ultimately a bit thin even at its short running time. Like I said above, the minute we meet Rhea, we know that the film will end with a fight between Glatt and Schreiber’s fun villain. And the Pill plotline, while cute, also progresses rather predictably. I wanted a few more surprises in the storytelling. Ultimately, “Goon” is a bloody valentine to hockey and the story of an average guy who learns he could be something more.

“Goon” stars Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, and Liev Schreiber. It was written by Baruchel & Evan Goldberg and directed by Michael Dowse. It opens in Chicago on March 30th, 2012 and is already available On Demand. It is rated R. content director Brian Tallerico

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