Goon, based on the autobiography of minor league hockey enforcer Doug Smith, trickled into a handful of theaters in 2011 and eventually became a quiet hit, if not at the box office ($6.4 million worldwide on a $12 million budget) then certainly with viewers and critics. Seann William Scott, up until that point known mainly for playing shouty horndog variations on Stifler, is surprisingly perfect as Doug Glatt, an inarticulate, good-natured lug resigned to the fact that ass-kicking is the only thing he’s good at. It wasn’t the funniest film, or the most groundbreaking, but it had soul, a small-town earnestness, and the way Scott’s Glatt and Liev Schreiber’s Ross Shea, Glatt’s rival enforcer, took no special pleasure in their jobs — like a hockey version of Looney Tunes’ wolf and sheepdog (“Mornin, Ralph. Mornin’, Sam.”) — felt like a fresh and compelling angle.
Michael Dowse (Fubar) directed the original from a script by Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel, the latter of whom also played Doug’s friend Pat, a grating superfan who felt like he’d escaped from a high school sketch group that’s just discovered Boston accents (“No, yoah fackin’ retahded!”). Where the best of Goon was about texture and feel — diagonal sleet on a Halifax morning, a tooth skittering across the ice, Doug’s burly flannels — “Pat” was broad parody, the seeming response to a misguided script note that a movie about a guy from Massachusetts should have more Massholes. The parody didn’t feel particularly accurate, or relevant, and if your character’s only consistent attribute is being “inappropriate,” it starts to feel like it was written by some Reddit dork whose bio warns that he’ll probably offend you.
Goon was co-written by Baruchel, so I can’t lay all the troubles with its sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers (directed by Baruchel and written by Baruchel and Jesse Chabot), on him. But it certainly feels like it sprung from the same comedic sensibilities that gave us Pat. All the visceral realism that grounded the original is out, replaced by manic, addled storytelling so convoluted that the only thing communicated is a general sense of desperation. It screams and flails in so many different directions simultaneously that it’s a chore just to determine what the joke was supposed to be.
Scott returns to play a late-seasons Homer Simpson version of Doug Glatt, a guy who’s gone from charmingly inarticulate in the original to this sort of all-purpose junior writer’s punchline dispenser in the sequel. In the first scene, Doug’s been named captain of the Halifax Highlanders, and in his locker room acceptance speech, he pronounces, “One time I had a dream that I was captain of a monkey ship. There were all these monkeys hanging around — dancing, singing, wearing little monkey sailor hats…”
I guess that’s a neat-o joke if you don’t mind the fact that Glatt’s very being has been shaped by a lack of the imagination required for wacky monkey dreams. And so it sells out the foundation of the character in the hopes that we’ll laugh at a throwaway monkey joke. It’s a sad harbinger of the rest of the film, which constantly trades coherency for Family Guy-style cutaways.
Take Doug’s new rival, for example. Wyatt Russell (Kurt’s son, who was so good in Everybody Wants Some) plays Anders Cain, a slick scorer who’s also a bruising enforcer (part of the “new breed” of player, an announcer informs us). He plays for a rival team at first, but then he gets brought in to replace Doug as captain of the Highlanders by the Highlanders’ owner — who is also Cain’s father. Goaded by his father, at first Cain is a reluctant brute, a sort of folk rock version of Ross Rhea, but later he starts chugging energy drinks and screams at everyone. So, he’s a league rival, a pretty boy, a usurper, a spoiled owner’s son, a reluctant brute, and some kind of vaguely defined head case. Jesus, man, pick a cliché. This movie is exhausting.
Baruchel’s Pat is back as well, wearing a hat that says “F*CK WHITE PEOPLE,” with a fishnet shirt and Africa medallion. In one scene, he walks into a room waving invisible air away from his ass telling the other characters that he was just “dropping meatball loads from my asshole.”
Cool? This character is just an incoherent mix of obnoxious things. Sort of like the rest of the movie, in which most of the jokes aren’t really situations or bits or interactions so much as combinations of words Baruchel (I assume?) seems to think are funny. Like a stewardess saying “now it smells like dick in here” or Jason Jones, as Doug Glatt’s first non-hockey boss, complaining about his balloon-sized prostate. Uh, what? Jason Jones is 44. These are hack jokes shoehorned into bewildering circumstances.
So much of this film is baffling, even Doug’s hair, which has a green tint to it and looks spray painted to his skull. Is it… supposed to look like a bad dye job? As always, the worst kind of creative choice is one that isn’t recognizable as a choice.
Considering the early part of the film has Glatt getting injured and having to contemplate a post-hockey life, you might think the film would offer a non-hockey redemption for him. Nope, it’s all about winning the big game. As if that was ever what Glatt’s career was about. As if it isn’t Doug that we’re supposed to care about, but minor league hockey. Where Goon seemed like it was about the tragic heroes sacrificing their health to satisfy our perverse bloodlust, the sequel is merely a celebration of that bloodlust. Or at least, a confusingly constructed bloodlust vehicle for badly written jokes about shitting meatballs.