For the sports issue, we decided on Goon for the monthly discussion on Essential Canadian Cinema. It broke Canadian box office records upon its release in 2011, and took home top honours at the first annual Canadian Screen Awards. It is directed by Michael Dowse, and co-written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg. It stars some big name talent, too: Seann William Scott, Liev Shreiber, Jay Baruchel, Eugene Levy, and Allison Pill. Goon follows a well-meaning, too nice guy as he goes from bouncer to enforcer for a minor league hockey team.
Ada: So Goon looks like it’s got the makings of an all-Canadian film, with a team well-versed in Canadian comedy – Michael Dowse, and the master foul-mouthed sidekick Jay Baruchel. It’s about Canada’s favourite past time, and they even throw in a cameo by former NHL enforcer (aka goon) Georges Laraque (who was born in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood, where Baruchel also grew up and still lives).
Danita: Totally! Not to mention one of Canada’s pride and joys, Eugene Levy.
Ada: I can appreciate the humour in Goon, the gross exaggerations, and slow-motion blood splatter, but despite our Canadian stereotypes, I’m not so sure this movie holds nationwide appeal. Nor is it the best vehicle for representing Canadian cinema. This glorification of violence doesn’t speak to a nation. Did you find it funny Danita?
Danita: Not really. I, too, can appreciate the humour, but I can also appreciate that it just isn’t my thing. I’m not the audience for Goon. Which I think speaks to your point about holding nationwide appeal. I’m about as Canadian as it gets, as far as my nationality is concerned, and Goon didn’t appeal to me. I think this is a movie made for very specific Canadians. I don’t care about hockey at all, and I feel like that really hindered my enjoyment of the film. And you’re right, there is something about the glorification of violence that seems very un-Canadian in fact.
Ada: That being said, the Canadian-ness of Goon is most evident in moments contradictory to its overall violent themes. I’m talking about Doug’s romance with Eva. His hesitant approach and quick polite retraction upon learning that Eva has a boyfriend. It’s the “no, it’s okay, I’m sorry” benevolent nature that brought out my nationalistic pride.
Danita: Yes! I feel like Goon might not be an essential Canadian film, but Doug is an essential Canadian character. His too nice, too polite demeanor is something Canadians are known for and something Canadians can relate to. But then again, there are a lot of essential Canadian characters… I don’t think we really need Doug to be a stand-in for that.
Ada: In terms of originality, I can’t help but question Goon’s very existence as Canada’s answer to Slap Shot – historically, the quintessential film about fighting in hockey (and also an American production).
Danita: Yeah, can a sports movie really be Essential Canadian Cinema? I feel like that is SUCH an American genre, through and through. They’ve sort of got it covered. And yes, hockey is Canada’s national sport, but Goon just doesn’t feel Canadian. Then again, Goon has had more Hollywood success than any other Canadian film so maybe that in and of itself makes it essential. It brought Canadian film into the mainstream unlike never before.
Is Goon Essential Canadian Cinema?
Ada: It has all the right ingredients to be Essential Canadian Cinema, but they don’t add up the right way. It doesn’t have enough mass Canadian appeal, and the glorification of violence doesn’t correspond with Canadian identity.
Danita: I’m at a real crossroads here! Does its American appeal automatically make it un-Canadian, or does its American appeal make it that much more essential? It’s a hard call to make. I think there is an argument for both sides here. My gut feeling, however, is telling me that it isn’t Essential Canadian Cinema because it doesn’t really speak to the Canadian experience.
The Final Verdict
There you have it folks. Goon sadly does not make the cut for TFS’ Essential Canadian Cinema list. Let us know if you disagree.