Goon receives Golden Box Office award


Telefilm Canada presented its fourth annual Golden Box Office award to director Michael Dowse, and co-writers Evan Goldberg and Jay Baruchel for Goon – the hockey comedy success of 2012 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Tuesday.

The Goldie award, as its come to be known, honours the writer(s) and director(s) of the highest grossing Canadian film of the previous year with a cash prize of $20,000 each. Goldberg and Baruchel will share the $20,000 prize as co-screenwriters.

Goon netted around $4.1 million at the domestic box office for 2012, and almost $3 million worldwide.  Its DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD sales have also topped the $1 million mark since being released in May of 2012, according to The Numbers.

It also beat out Hollywood adventure film Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and romantic drama The Vow in its opening weekend in February, earning more than $1.2 million over three days.

Baruchel, who also stars in the film, attributes Goon‘s success to the audience’s appreciation of the film’s Canadian values of hard work and humble pride.

And of course, it’s about hockey, Baruchel’s self-described religion.

What else made him think it would be a success, given that even the best Canadian films have a hard-time competing against Hollywood films at the box office?

“There hasn’t been a good hockey movie since 1976,” Baruchel tells Playback.

Baruchel is referring to Slapshot, the American film starring Paul Newman that comes up in any conversation about hockey movies.  Newman played a hockey coach who decides the best way to keep his team alive is to assault their opponents.

And that strategy, which worked for the team and for the fans, also worked for Goon.

In Goon, Doug Glatt, played by Sean William Scott is a 27-year-old bouncer who feels like the black sheep in a family of doctors.  He ends up on the ice after coming to the defence of his friend Pat (Baruchel) when he is attacked in the stands at a hockey game. His “pummeling” abilities gets him hired by the local minor hockey team to be a bodyguard and enforcer against his idol Ross “the boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber).

Although the film proudly depicts hockey violence (its poster’s tagline is “If you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em up”), it has been described as a comedy with a heart of gold.

Noah Segal, co-president of eOne Films Canada says “going for the jugular” in a good Canadian hockey movie is what made Goon a success.

“It’s a ridiculous comedy that captures the zeitgeist. It’s not cerebral. It’s gritty. It’s low brow. It’s not meant for everyone.  It wasn’t supposed to be. It was a great package of writing, acting.  It’s all about generating laughs and the timing of the jokes,” Segal tells Playback.

Segal says the film was met with enthusiasm by Cineplex management and public focus groups and even those who just saw the trailer.

He adds that once the film was released it was particularly popular outside of Toronto, especially in Quebec and Alberta, indicating an urban/rural split in the tastes of Canadian cinema goers. Segal believes Goon’s box office success may be the beginning of a new trend in Canadian cinema – films that are deliberately commercial instead of arthouse.

The film’s strong box office numbers have ensured that Goon will be coming back in sequels. Baruchel and Segal confirmed that Goon 2 is in the writing stage and the same team of writers, directors and producers will be coming back for production that may begin as early as 2014. “There’s already a lot of buzz and excitement and requests about it within the industry,” says Segal, adding there is also the possibility of a Goon 3.

When asked what he would do with his portion of the prize winnings, Baruchel he said he would spend it on “fries and gravy at St. Hubert’s or somewhere in Montreal.”

Goon was also named one of TIFF’s top ten Canadian films for 2012, alongside David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, the Oscar-nominated Rebelle and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell.

The hockey flick also earned nominations from the DGC, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television (Canadian Screen Awards) and Toronto and Vancouver film critics.

Goon was shot mostly in Winnipeg and stars fellow Canadians Eugene Levy, Alison Pill and Nicholas Campbell.

The screenplay was adapted from a book called Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith.

Photo: Jay Baruchel and Michael Dowse with producers, distributors and actors from Goon; Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower; and representatives from Telefilm Canada, including Executive Director Carolle Brabant. Credit Nick Wons.