Keep Calm and Carey On
I hate starting movie reviews with a synopsis. I find that it’s such a waste of space. So let’s put it this way. The movie, “Goon” is about a goon that gets a lucky break and earns himself a regular spot on a minor league hockey team. There`s swearing, blood, violence, and an actual scene where one of the characters snorts coke off the back of the lady he`s in the process of – err “loving.” Oh and it stars Seann William Scott, Alison Pill, and Jay Baruchel and was directed by Michael Dowse of “Fubar” and “It`s All Gone Pete Tong” notoriety.
My knee jerk reaction when I saw the trailer for Goon was one of mild disgust. I asked myself how insensitive and money loving people must be to go ahead with the release of a movie glorifying hockey violence only months after the deaths of Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard and then Wade Belak? These were three men who used their fists to prove their worth in the NHL and their deaths made it tragically clear that we’ve been neglecting the psychological toll being the tough guy can have on someone. The timing seemed wrong. We needed more awareness. We didn’t need some movie to come along and make light of such brutal and arguably avoidable violence.
But when I actually watched the movie (as anyone who wants to criticize a movie must do) and my stuff got ambiguous. I simply sat back and watched the movie. I tried to be as objective as possible and I must say that I was genuinely entertained, I had fun, and I’m glad I got to see this one in theatres. As the movie came to an end I tried to make sense of the dissonance between my opinion that as a general rule people shouldn`t be punching each other in the head versus the high level of enjoyment and satisfaction in watching a movie where people were punching each other in the head. How can I justify such a contradiction?
But then I asked myself, “is this really a contradiction?” Is it really so rare for spectators to enjoy watching sports where people are getting hurt? When you watch a marathon the athletes aren’t getting overtly injured but they are invariably feeling pain. Their endurance is dangerously close to its breaking point and if you ask any of them they’ll tell you that it’s painful as hell. We give them accolades for pushing their bodies to the extreme and beating out all the rest. Aren’t marathon running and hockey fighting both examples of “unnecessary” human suffering for the sake of an athletic competition? Is one form of pain better or worse than another?
I’d have to say that it’s foolish to believe that there is some sort of criteria that will define acceptable pain in sports because it’s all unnecessary. Any form of athletic competition involves people who are masochistically enduring painful activities for the sake of winning some symbolic victory.
Yet it is indeed this symbolism of the whole spectacle that carries the most value. It’s the triumph of the human will against the odds and the fact that you witnessed it. To see someone push back their pain threshold is an incredibly inspiring sight to behold. It’s the sort of inspiration that can help people take on their own demons and challenges with greater determination.
As you can see, there’s much more to Goon than the sports comedy that you see on the surface. Although the whole premise resembles “Slap Shot,” to dismiss it as a mere tribute would be to egregiously underestimate Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel not just as writers but as hockey fans. The characters they created have much more depth than you would expect and the insightful casting of such talented actors makes the characters seem all the more realistic. I really couldn’t describe Seann William Scott’s performance any other way than “Forrest Gump on skates” and I never really thought much of the guy before to be honest.
Oh and I laughed my ass off! The comedy comes at you in lots of ways. There’s situational and physical comedy and there’s character driven humour. On top of it all, some of the one-liners in this movie are what cult classics are made of. The bottom line is that this movie is pitch perfect and is a successful addition to the sports comedy cannon that hasn’t grown all that much over the years. And yet should we really be all that surprised? After all Baruchel is a Habs fan and therefore intimately familiar with greatness.
- Pat Wallis
Read more from Pat Wallis on his Al Carlin blog where this article was first published.