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Seann William Scott turns in a surprisingly likeable performance in Goon

The Gentle Bruiser

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Who would've thought that Steve Stifler would become a badass with a tender heart? For years, Seann William Scott has played variations on his Stifler character, the delightfully annoying and crude asshole he played in the American Pie flicks. But even though he returned to the character that put him on the map in this year's American Reunion, Scott has shown that as good as he is at being Stifler, he can be more than that. A lot more. And to prove it, we turn your attention to director Michael Dowse's hockey com-dram Goon, based on the book of the same name about real-life minor league hockey player Doug Smith.

As a bouncer for a local tavern, Doug Glatt checks IDs and hands out knuckle sandwiches to unruly patrons. But unlike most bouncers, Glatt has a visible sweetness. More often than not, he apologizes to unruly patrons before punching them in the face. In his downtime, he hosts a public access show about hockey with his loud-mouthed pal, Pat (Jay Baruchel, who also wrote Goon). One night when Doug and Pat are watching a local game, Pat begins writing shit-talking checks that his ass can't cash. One enraged player decides to climb into the stands to serve Pat a proper asskick, but Doug quickly steps in to deliver a sleep-inducing sock to the jaw that the hockey agents in the crowd can't help but notice. Before too long, Doug finds himself enrolled as the enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders. His job: Protecting his teammates by body checking the opposing team.

When he's not trying to find his balance on the ice in Goon, Glatt is trying to fit in with hostile players like Xavier Laflamme (Marc-André Grondin), his new roommate and the teammate he's assigned to protect on the ice. Laflamme's initial hostility stems mostly from a past fight that resulted in a concussion that left him in fear of getting hit again. Consequently, Laflamme has resorted to hanging out with the wrong crowd, humping every hockey groupie on earth, and staying drunk all the time.

Soon enough, Glatt begins to question his decision to join the Highlanders, thanks in part to his disapproving parents (Ellen David and Scott's fellow American Pie alum Eugene Levy). However, a five-second make-out session with a hockey fan named Eva (Alison Pill) changes things. Smitten, Doug tries again and again to win Eva's heart despite the fact that she's very much attached. Back on the ice, Doug is worried about an upcoming faceoff with the St. John's Shamrocks in which he'll have to go head-to-head with his idol, and the guy that made Laflamme a wreck, Ross "The Boss" Rhea (Liev Schreiber).

The real testament of an engaging sports movie is when the athletically impaired can get caught up in those moments when the scores are tied and our protagonists have seemingly overcome the personal obstacles that have held them back. With the exception of Slapshot and, dare we say it, The Mighty Ducks, there aren't many hockey films that have endured. Heck, there aren't many hockey flicks to begin with. But Goon may very well stand the test of time.

No wheels have been re-invented here, like in last year's Moneyball, but the film has heart, humor, and a healthy dose of slo-mo fight scenes. Goon may be filled to the brim with vulgarity and violence, but damn it if Seann William Scott's portrayal of Doug Glatt isn't the most likable we've seen in some time.

Goon will screen at the Olde North Charleston Picture House (4820 Jenkins Ave.) on Sat. May 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $2-$5. Visit parkcirclefilms.org for more info.

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