Film Review – Goon
Goon (2011) is a comedy straight down the middle, doing nothing new, but it does keep a good sense of humor. It takes on a well-used idea of the man who starts out as a loser and then gets his shot to be something more. It has everything expected of a film like this. The main character starts out being a loser, but he gets his shot; he has a challenge to overcome and a rival to beat. In the mix, he has a dorky friend, a guy he needs to win over so he can be something more, a reluctant love interest, a bad guy to fight, and a family with mixed-to-bad feelings about what he does. The big change is how fast they go through these clichés. This is nice, since then we do not have to focus on them, but bad because then they are never fully developed or explored, and it causes a disconnect. However, it also doesn’t take away from the jokes or one-liners.
Doug (Sean William Scott) is from a family of successful doctors; his dad is one, and his brother is one, as well. He is stuck bouncing at a club. Then, at a hockey match, his friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) is heckling a player. When the player says a homosexual slur, Doug, defending his friend and his brother (who is gay), beats the player down. So the local coach asks him to be on the team to be the resident fighter, to take the penalty timeouts and get rid of other players so his team can score. As quickly as he joins that team, he is traded up to another team. It has a former ice hockey superstar, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-André Grondin). Laflamme was from the pros but got bumped down after a nasty hit from Ross Rhea (Liev Schrieder) caused him to lose his confidence and become a drug-addled wreck of his former self. So, of course, after Doug shows up the team starts to do better, and he alienates the former superstar Laflamme. Doug is also now the potential target of Ross Rhea, who got bumped down and is eager to keep his reputation as the best fighter in hockey.
Sean William Scott as Doug is the most interesting part of the film. He is made out to be a self-knowing idiot, but is a very decent person and is very easy to like and root for. When Doug states publicly that he is stupid, there is a real sense of him not insulting himself but of actually knowing his limitations. He is simply looking to find his place and something he is good at. His character is also where most of the dialogue’s humor works, because his simplicity makes us buy that he would say that, making it even funnier.
The overall structure of the film itself is problematic. We can feel the screenwriters hurrying through the storyline; they know that we know where this film is going. It hurries through the set-up moments of Doug getting on the team and getting to meet the other characters so fast that it is hard for the viewer to get involved. Even then, these moments are all very predictable. The filmmakers think this kind of movie has to have these qualities, not that they are actually important. The same is true for the side characters, who are stuck in a quick set of personality types, and so the amount of humor they can bring is limited. Ryan basically yells swear words and is excitable. Eva (Alison Pill), as a love interest, has spotty reasons for being interested in Doug and her reason for not being with him (having a boyfriend she is not interested in) makes for some of the weaker material. She has some nice one-liners, but she is there more because movies like this have a love interest, so they gave him one.
This would all work if there was enough humor to keep things going. There are some clever touches that give the film some good moments, such as the musical choices. Never has music been used so well for a comedy. They use an opera soundtrack that feeds off the moments to make them seem more important or heartbreaking than they are, which also creates such over the top moments that it was hard not to laugh. Doug and his “rival” Ross Rhea have some nice characterizations and unlike in most films, where Rhea would just be a straight-up bad guy, he actually has respect for Doug’s abilities. He sees that they are both just doing what they are good at and, in this case, it is punching the living daylights out of each other. There are some fun one-liners from everyone at some point or another that keep things going, so it is never dull, but still never as engaging as you want it to be.
The film plays with some new ideas and give us some laughs, but director Michael Dowse isn’t consistent enough in the laughs or in his story to give reasons to revisit it. If you are going for a light comedy with a likable leading man, this would be a good way to spend an evening. However, this is not a comedy that will be remembered and quoted years from now.
Final Grade: B-