Boy, was I not looking forward to Goon! The Great White North’s favorite gladiatorial sport, Jason-masked hosers wielding hockey sticks, slo-mo arcs of ketchup … not to mention Stifler (Seann William Scott) on steroids? But it turns out this little movie’s a charmer, perfectly calibrated as a sweet, slow-cooking sports comedy (and love story), chock-full of colorful characters who score, on and off the ice, by consistently breaking out of cookie-cutter caricature. (Exception that proves the rule: the fall-down-funny ditz who screeches a pregame “O Canada” so awful the rinkside commentator wonders if it might be “borderline treasonous.”)
Goon is 100 percent Canuck, eh? That authenticity comes courtesy of FUBAR director Michael Dowse, hailing from Ontario, and Montreal-born Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up), who co-adapted (with Evan Superbad Goldberg) Doug Smith’s memoir about the ribald adventures of a minor-league hockey player. Baruchel also acts out as Ryan, the titular goon’s manic, pottymouthed best bud.
Since Dowse and Baruchel are specialists in arrested development comedy, it’s no surprise that the movie is awash in raunchy humor and gross talk. Think of this as the white (more like Technicolor) noise of locker-room camaraderie and rink throwdowns. The near-naked brace of “Chernobyls” — Russian players who enthusiastically molest their goalie’s helmet, while referencing the dude’s mom in crude detail — would surely be at home in the spectacularly uncouth boys club so fondly recalled from 1977’s Slap Shot.