||Seann William Scott gives an uncharacteristically charming performance as Doug Glatt, a dim but likable lug who becomes an enforcer on a hockey team, in Michael Dowse’s “Goon.” He may be obnoxious and insufferable as Stifler in the “American Pie” movies (and other similar roles), but here his laid-back demeanor is ingratiating.
Laid-back off the ice, that is. Even in his job as a bouncer at a local bar in small-town Massachusetts, he’s an amiable fellow who avoids getting too physical. He’s certainly far less volatile than his best buddy (co-writer Jay Baruchel), a foul-mouthed live wire with whom he shares an obsession with the local hockey team. When he wins a fight with a player who storms into the stands during a game, the coach recruits him—despite the fact that he can hardly stand up on skates—as the team’s answer to anybody who might go after the other players. So successful is he at the job that it earns him a place on the roster of a minor-league Canadian squad whose star, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) has been turned into a bowl of jelly by legendary “goon” Ross Rhea (Live Schreiber), whose last attack destroyed whatever confidence and courage Xavier ever possessed.
The story’s trajectory is a pretty simple one, involving Doug’s ascent in the ranks amid a bevy of colorful players and a ranting coach (Kim Coates) despite the drug-sex-and-alcohol addled Laflamme’s resistance to being helped, culminating in an inevitable face-off against Rhea. Added to the mix are the disapproval of his disappointed father (Eugene Levy) and the concern of his mom (Ellen David)—as well as the germ of a romance with cute-as-a-button Eva (Allison Pill), who’s obviously drawn to the good-natured guy but reluctant to commit because she’d feel bad about cheating on her current boyfriend. Glatt, of course, won’t give up.
Some viewers may recoil at the level of violence in “Goon.” Dowse certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to the hits and brawls, in which blood is spilled and damage clearly done. Many will certainly feel that Baruchel—who adapted the screenplay from Doug Smith and Adam Frattasio’s book along with Evan Goldberg—has been far too generous in providing material for himself, which he then plays with the sort of mindless abandon that can swiftly become aggravating.
But the picture captures the crude, raucous locker-room spirit of “Slap Shot” with surprising jollity, and it’s peopled with amusing characters, all played with relish by the well-chosen supporting cast. Pill, in particular, brings genuine gamin-like appeal to Eva.
And Scott is so good that he actually makes you want to root for the Doug, his bunch of mangy misfits and his chances with the girl who’s obviously meant for him. He may be playing a goon here, but he does so with disarming canniness.