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Now that the hockey strike is settled, and hockey sticks powered by flashing blades will kick up ice, slam pucks, and perhaps deprive a player or two of a tooth or two, one is put in mind of one of 2012’s most delightful surprises: GOON. A tale of a hockey fan, played by Seann William Scott, who goes from being a lost little lamb to the game’s toughest enforcer. Scott doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the fine thespian he can be when given the chance, perhaps because he was just too believable as Stiffler in all those AMERICAN PIE movies, though I would argue that there is a dark spin Scott puts on Stiffler that makes that icon of gross-out humor funnier than he has any right to be. There is also his curiously overlooked work in THE PROMOTION (review here), a curiously overlooked but very smart, very insightful consideration of contemporary economics. In this, Scott held his own with John C. Reilly in a wonderfully subtle performance as a basically decent guy battling his conscience to best a rival for the eponymous career move.
In GOON, he is disarming and irresistible as Doug Glatt, the anti-Stiffler, if you will, a sweet soul with an uncommon talent for blocking brutes bent on carnage for its own sake as well as for making a goal. The world at large never quite knows how to react to Doug’s simplicity and sense of honor, which makes for both the film’s unexpected humor and its odd humanity.
The film, too, is uncommon for the sports genre, avoiding the usual tropes and idioms of victory and defeat in favor of an offbeat character study of a gentle man excelling as a brutal player. Doug’s mind may be slow, but his heart is the essence of nobility,and his outlook unaccountably sunny. Scott never condescends to the character or to his audience, playing Scott as slow-witted, but not stupid. And therein lies the reason for the film’s success. Not that Liev Schreiber as the game’s reigning enforcer on the brink of exile is another good reason, as are Allison Pill as the stunned but not unwilling object of Doug’s affections, and Eugene Levy at Doug’s flabbergasted father.
If you haven’t seen GOON, and need a little more persuading, the KMR review can be found here.