Nearly 35 years have passed since Slap Shot cursed, clipped and caroused its way into the hearts of movie-watching hockey fans. Many puck-related flicks have since tried to replicate that perfect blend of heart and humor, but most – including MVP: Most Valuable Primate, which sold the sport via, yes, monkeys on skates, and Score: A Hockey Musical, which we won’t dignify by mentioning any further – are full-on abominations.
However, the new movie Goon, starring Seann William Scott (American Pie, Dude, Where’s My Car?), Liev Schreiber (Scream and narrator of the NHL’s 24/7 HBO series) and Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder) deserves no game misconduct for sucking the joy and reality from the sport in some cutesy Hollywood manner. In fact, Goon is a profane, pumped-up, playful punch-out of a hockey movie.
Based on a book by former minor league enforcer Doug Smith, Goon is a love letter to hockey’s tough guys penned by Baruchel, a who grew up a diehard Canadiens fan in Montreal and whose dad helped him appreciate the John Kordics and Chris Nilans of the game. Along with co-screenwriter Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express), Baruchel has carefully crafted a film replicating the dressing room banter hockey players are famous for, as well as the honor that exists among players who fight for a living.
It’s odd to read a rave review from a non-fan of fisticuffs like myself, but this is entertainment, where nobody really gets hurt.
And make no mistake, Goon is entertaining as hell.
Playing the lead role of a wide-eyed innocent who falls into enforcer duty despite barely being able to skate, Scott projects a kindness and humility most NHL tough guys exhibit. Schreiber, who researched his role as a veteran fighter nearing his career’s end by reading the late Bob Probert’s book, Tough Guy, has the subtle mannerisms and Canadian accent of a ruffian down pat. The hockey scenes are fast, forceful and thrilling and the supporting cast (including acclaimed actress Alison Pill and Georges Laraque in a cameo appearance) adds to the enjoyment.
Goon isn’t for kids. But adults who’ve long been looking for a physical, funny hockey film – a Slap Shot for a new generation – need look no longer. Goon will grab you by the eyeballs and give you an entertaining thrashing.