The biggest surprise of my movie-filled but mostly boring weekend was sitting down to VOD a new sports comedy called Goon. As a longtime hockey fan (Go Flyers), I'm always open to a new movie that focuses on Canada's favorite export. Goon, as it turns out, is a rather fantastic little character study / sports comedy about a dumb-but-sweet nobody who becomes a miniature celebrity after joining the local hockey team. It stars Seann William Scott, it's both smash-mouth and strangely sweet, and, hell, I wrote a full review of the flick over at Twitchfilm. Click here to read that if you're so inclined.
My enthusiasm for the Goon flick spilled over onto my Twitter feed, of course, which leads us here: a quick and entirely unofficial list of the six best hockey movies. (I say "unofficial" because sometimes people mistake a writer's opinion for fact. And by "sometimes" I mean "very frequently.") Anyway, I think we can all agree that hockey deserves to get a few more good movies. Kudos to Michael Dowse, Jay Baruchel, and Evan Goldberg for giving us a long overdue entry on the following list.
6. Sudden Death -- OK, it's not actually a true hockey movie, but I challenge you to find one puck fan who doesn't love this broad and obvious "Die Hard at Game Seven of the NHL Playoff Finals" action flick. Also included in last week's Die Hard Knock-Off piece, this colorfully mindless genre-bender has Jean-Claude Van Damme beating bad guy butt while the Penguins and the Blackhawks fight for the Stanley Cup. And yes, it does feature a scene in which a mascot gets beat up, which always makes me smile.
5. Youngblood (1986) -- OK, so this isn't such a great hockey movie, but you know what? I know plenty of fans who dig this conventional sports flick despite its obvious trappings and predictable nature. Plus it's not too often you get to see Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze team up. Also there's a very young Kenau Reeves sporting one terrible accent, a young and pretty Cynthia Gibb, the admirably gruff Ed Lauter, and ... wait, Fionnula Flanagan was in Youngblood? Weird. Anyway, you'll cheer at the ending.
4. Mystery, Alaska (1999) -- What a strange concoction this one is. On one hand it's some sort of wistful feature-length sitcom, but it's also a half-decent sports story, AND it features Russell Crowe, Burt Reynolds, Lolita Davidovich, Maury Chakyin, Colm Meaney, Mary McDonnell, and Hank Azaria. That's a lot of friendly faces. Adding to the oddness is the director (Jay Roach) and the co-writer (David E. Kelley) AND the presence of Mike Myers, but there's probably just enough ice-play to keep the fans happy. Again, if there were more hockey flicks out there, this one probably wouldn't even make the cut.
3. Miracle (2004) -- Here's how you take a factual story of great sports history and turn it into a legitimately good movie: you focus on the human element. In this case, screenwriter Eric Guggenheim and director Gavin O'Connor focus on the virtually legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks, and through his character (thanks to a great performance by Kurt Russell) we learn about the joys of hockey, the thrill of success, and why it was so damn important to American when our hockey team won at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Conventional stuff in many ways, but also a well-made film.
2. Goon (2012) -- In every way a spiritual descendant of our #1 pick -- like you don't know what it is -- Goon focuses on a player instead of the coach, but it still celebrates all that is good and pure (and devious and dirty) about old-school hockey. Although a character piece in many ways, this movie knows hockey like only the biggest fans could. Toss in a great cast, a surprisingly moving tone, and lots of laughs, and you've got a hockey flick that deserves mention in the same breath as......
1. Slap Shot (1977) -- Written by Nancy Dowd and directed by George Roy Hill (both Oscar winners), Slap Shot is, without a doubt, the absolute king of the hockey flick. Epic in length (123 minutes!), vulgar in presentation, and absolutely lovable in all the most grown-up ways, Slap Shot may be best remembered for those silly Hanson brothers, but it also boasts a fantastic performance by Paul Newman, a scrappy supporting cast, and more memorable one-liners than most modern comedies could dream of. Even if you know nothing of hockey, Slap Shot works very well in an Animal House / Caddyshack way. And please, for all that's good and decent (and Canadian), please avoid both of the Slap Shot video "sequels." They're just riding on the name of one classic comedy.
Oh, sorry for not mentioning the Mighty Ducks movies. They were overlooked because I hate them.