Goon, the potential return of the sports movie

What in the hell happened to the sports movie? In the last decade or so the production of sports oriented films hasn’t diminished in quantity, simply, the few movies that have attempted to showcase the intensity and inspiration people watch these movies for have fallen down flat. They haven’t managed to evoke the same classic memories that films of predeceasing decades were able to.

In my mind, 2000 marked the last great year for the sub-genre. It was then that the world was treated to Shane “Footsteps” Falco leading a team of misfits onto the field in The Replacements. It was the beginning of Hollywood making films surrounding alternative sports with the fantastic cheerleader flick Bring It On. It was also the year Denzel Washington made sure the world would never forget Remember the Titans.

Following that solid year of comedies, dramas and cult films surrounding athletics, Hollywood has failed to find the magic in their attempts to make a successful sports movie.

Now it can’t be ignored that there have been some valiant attempts. Movies like Seabiscuit, Whip It! and The Rookie have their own followers who would be eager to provide them praise. Then, of course, you have the rare Oscar bait which appeal to a specific field. The Blind Side, The Fighter, Million Dollar Baby and even this year’s Moneyball all received critical acclaim and notice.

But, as good as those movies are, they simply don’t carry the same aura as Rocky, Bull Durham or The Hustler. There appears to be less attention paid to the sport itself in these more recent pictures than the ones I grew up on.

Which is why I think there is possible hope sitting in the on deck circle. Next week marks the release of Goon, and based on nothing but trailers and hype, the filmmakers behind this movie look like they have a hit on their hands.

As a Canadian kid, hockey movies naturally held higher ground for me than any other sports movies did when I was growing up. I found as much joy watching a Leafs game as I did when I saw the Hanson’s “puttin’ on the foil” in Slap Shot. I was one of the few who actually liked Mystery, Alaska. And you can be damn sure that I wanted to be coached by Gordon Bombay as one of The Mighty Ducks.

It’s a wonder to me how there has not been a good hockey flick since the late ‘90s. Some will point to Miracle as the exception, but to me it was no more than mediocre. It was Americans glamourizing the only exceptional moment they’ve ever had in the sport. Sure it’s a fun story, but being from north of the border, I wasn’t as into it as I might have been. There was no connection there.

This brings us to 2012, to the release of Goon. Not since George Roy Hill’s immortal Charlestown Chiefs took to the ice in 1977 has a movie really focused on the controversial role of “enforcer” on the ice. Despite the reservations of some towards the violence involved in the position, the “goon” is often a solid character who embodies the fun and charisma of the game. There simply is no equivalent role player in any other sport.

From what trailers have shown, the marketing team has me convinced that the movie will have the right balance of dark comedy and heart that will push it to another level — one we haven’t seen in far too long. If nothing else, the two Canadian kids who wrote it, Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, are two recognizable talents that I’ll trust resolutely, until they prove otherwise.

Goon looks good — it looks like it could be the first real entry into the Sports Movie Hall of Fame in a long while. Here’s hoping it doesn’t disappoint.

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