There’s an old saying in hockey (all sports, probably), that it’s not the name on the back of the jersey that matters; it’s the name on the front. The team comes first. Especially for the fans that pride themselves on supporting the same club for decades, through all their ups and downs. But there comes a point when blind devotion means you’re simply cheering for laundry(like every Superman, Batman and Spider-man iteration being bullet-proof at the box-office). The Halifax Highlanders jersey from Goon, of course, is hardly enough to sell tickets, so luckily you were able to get those uniforms back on everyone from the original film. Well, almost everyone. And the missing piece(s) might be why this film just couldn’t make the proverbial playoffs.
Let’s start with the stars on the roster. Seann William Scott was obviously game for a sequel. Goon played to all of his strengths and unearthed an emotional center that was sorely lacking in any of his previous performances. Liev Schreiber also returns and reprises his position as the perfect anti-antagonist. The rest of the team (Marc-Andre Grondin as the hot-shot winger, Kim Coates as the baffled coach, etc) are also present and accounted for. Even the fans in the stands came back – most notably Jay Baruchel as the foul-mouthed best friend, and his real-life ex-fiancée Alison Pill. Overcoming that bit of personal drama for the good of the team proves just how dedicated both actors were to making Goon: Last of the Enforcers.
In fact, the same way Scott’s Doug Glatt is given the “C” in the opening scene of the film, Baruchel was promoted to captain of team Goon when Michael Dowse was no longer available to direct. Baruchel’s dedication to the fictional Highlanders is unquestionable –having co-written both scripts – and he was able to draft some new top talent for _Last of the Enforcers, including Callum Keith Rennie, Elisha Cuthbert, and the film’s real key acquisition – Wyatt Russell. But like Doug, who is all heart and no brains, Baruchel’s passion may have blinded him from making some hard cuts that would have made this a more effective team on screen.
T.J. Miller, for example, as a TSN-esque sports commentator, was clearly hired for his ability to improvise strange and (usually) funny comments. But because his segments are supposed to be aired on a mainstream network (as opposed to a YouTube channel, like the original Goon), it takes us out of the film rather than being comedic connective tissue. There are also small details, like the fact Miller only looks into his close-up camera, when Baruchel sticks mainly to the wide two-shot 2nd camera. By not looking directly into the lens, it feels like Miller is reading Saturday Night Live cue cards – which takes all the energy away from his improvisation. It’s a rookie director mistake, and one example of how small choices can add up and cost you the game.
It’s hard to know how much the other major missing player, co-writer Evan Goldberg, could have helped. Last of the Enforcers has plenty of heart, but misses a few too many shots. It’s often bloody and sometimes funny, but missing the element of surprise that made Goon a real knock-out. Still, as a die-hard fan of Baruchel and Canadian cinema, I won’t be hanging up my sweater any time soon.