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What is it about sports that bring out our bloodlust? Why do we cheer for and encourage hard hits in football, fistfights in hockey and beatings in the ring? For one reason or another, normally peaceful human beings turn into barbarians when watching sports, but why? It’s a question I can’t answer and, evidently, neither can the new hockey “comedy” Goon, a movie without purpose, structure, flow or brains. It celebrates our desire for sports related violence without ever truly saying anything about it. It doesn’t add to the conversation; it’s merely an example of it. It’s not insightful, interesting or funny in the slightest and you should absolutely skip it.

Apparently based on a true story, the film follows Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a dimwitted bouncer living in Massachusetts. He’s never known how to do anything except for protecting others through fighting. One day, while at a hockey game with his best friend, Ryan (Jay Baruchel), a disgruntled player jumps into the stands and attacks him, only to be beaten down easily by Doug. The coach of the team is impressed and brings him on to drum up interest. Eventually, his notoriety begins to travel and he is promoted to a minor league hockey team in Canada, to an area where people end their sentences with “eh” and pronounce “out” closer to “oat.” Soon, another player by the name of Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is also well known for his ability to beat down other players, catches wind of Doug and their big game is coming up. Who will win the fight?

Who cares? Goon has one of the lamest, most inconsequential stories I’ve seen in a while. When the crux of your film rests on who’s going to win in a fight between two no name minor league hockey players, you’re in trouble. This story isn’t like one of last year’s best films, Warrior, where the fighting worked as a metaphor for something greater, which transcended the brutal act of beating each other mercilessly. No, Goon is just about cheering on the senseless violence the sport is known for while ignoring the actual playing of the sport itself. Eventually, you’ll learn a playoff berth is on the line for Doug’s team, but the movie seems so uninterested in their actual record that you have no choice but to reciprocate the feeling. So while his fighting is supposed to mean something greater to the team and the players on it, it instead simply feels unnecessary.

The violence is brutally depicted and glorified to the point of sickness, made all the more so since, as mentioned, the story about glory through fighting is so bare. There’s no momentum to it and no true character arc; Doug ends the movie just about the same way he began it, albeit with a swollen eye and numerous lacerations. There’s so little going on here, even in its brief 85 minute runtime (sans the credits), that the filmmakers threw in a flimsy, poorly developed schoolboy crush side story with a random girl he meets named Eva (Alison Pill) that exists only so someone will actually care about him in his time of need, since his parents are only in two scenes total, working as the obligatory villains who aren’t proud of him, and with good reason—they don’t want to see him make a living off brutalizing others. Clearly his parents are being unreasonable.

Goon also boasts ugly cinematography and horrible editing, with so many obvious jump cuts you’ll swear the copy of the film you’re watching is missing bridging shots. It’s nice to see Seann William Scott break his usual typecasting as the outgoing, crazy character—he’s timid (at least when he’s not fighting) and not so quick with the tongue here—but simply accepting a role that’s different than your norm isn’t enough to make a good movie. There has to be some meat to it, some type of theme or meaning to hold everything together. Goon has nothing of the sort and it’s a complete waste of time.

Goon receives 1/5


American Reunion

Sound is something most moviegoers take for granted. Most don’t walk out of a film and talk about the sound effects or the catchy soundtrack or the beautiful musical score, yet those things are absolutely vital to its success. Without them, a movie just isn’t complete. I say this only because I was forced to watch American Reunion sans the soundtrack. For whatever reason, be it a problem with the print of the film or the theater showing it, one of the sound channels never made a peep. In a movie that promises a high school reunion (which, of course, comes with dancing), the exclusion of music is a major distraction. It’s far too silly to watch the people onscreen flail their bodies to a nonexistent beat. Despite this problem and my general dissatisfaction with the way the film was presented to me, I’m still recommending American Reunion because it manages to be the most complete and dramatically effective film in the series while still retaining the raunchy humor it’s known for. The accompanying music was sorely missed, but the fact that the film still worked in spite of that is a testament to the talent that put it together.

Thirteen years have passed since American Pie hit the scene and now everybody we know and love is off doing their own thing. Jim (Jason Biggs) is still married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and now they have a kid. Oz (Chris Klein) is the host of a television show and is in a relationship with a beautiful, but crazy young girl named Mia (Katrina Bowden). Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is essentially a housewife and has moved on since his break-up with ex-girlfriend Vicky (Tara Reid). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) tells everyone of his adventures around the world while Stifler (Seann William Scott) is working as a temp at a prominent accounting firm. They haven’t seen each other since Jim and Michelle’s wedding, but they have all come home for their thirteenth East Great Falls high school reunion (it turns out the reunion planner simply forgot to do it on their tenth) and though they only plan on reminiscing about their past adventures, little do they know they’re about to have a new one instead.

It’s pointless to discuss the humor of American Reunion. If you’ve seen the other films in the series, you know what you’re in for here. It’s essentially more of the same and if you found it funny then, chances are you’ll find it funny now. What’s far more interesting in this offering of vulgarity and sexual shenanigans is its unanticipated maturity. As everyone does at some point or another, the boys have grown up. That obsession with sex they had in the original film has progressed to a longing for a stable relationship. Most of them are presently in one and they all have their problems, but the desire to love and be loved is their central focus, eclipsing the childish and exaggerated importance of sex. In one early hilarious bit, a group of beautiful young girls run by them on the beach and they don’t try to charm one of them into their beds; they’re too concerned with the sand that was kicked up in their faces. This growth is unexpected, but welcome, and it gives the film far more dramatic weight than any of the previous films in the series.

The only character who seems to have not grown up is Stifler. He’s still rude, crude and looking for hookups, but you quickly realize his behavior is merely a cover for his general unhappiness. He hasn’t done much with his life and is the lowliest of all the workers at his place of employment. He wants so badly to hang onto the past, and with good reason, that he sees no other alternative. Anybody who has lived in that transition from childhood to adulthood can understand his mentality. His character arc will hit close to home to many people—mostly to those who have struggled to enter into the adult world after school—and its effectiveness, given that it’s coming from the lewdest character in the entire film, is a wonderful surprise.

Although there is plenty of sound drama in the film, American Reunion seems to have no faith in itself, forcing dramatic scenarios where they don’t fit just to give the characters some type of emotional conflict to overcome. The most obligatory example comes when Michelle learns that Jim drove his attractive 18-year-old neighbor home after a heavy night of drinking. Nothing happened and Jim did the right thing—he got her home safely rather than risk the possibility that she could end up killing herself or someone else—but she gets mad at him anyway. Perhaps I’m simply looking at the scene from a male perspective and see no wrongdoing in his behavior, but that makes it no less trite. These forced scenarios also lead to some horrific acting, most notably by Tara Reid and Thomas Ian Nicholas. None of these folks are known for their dramatic chops and a number of scenes are difficult to take seriously, despite their serious intent.

Nevertheless, American Reunion is everything a fan of the series could want. It’s still funny and unabashedly crude, but there’s a sense of closure, that these characters have finally found their bliss. In a way, it’s kind of like an actual high school reunion. It’s a celebration of what used to be, but also a realization that moving forward and growing up is sometimes better.

American Reunion receives 3.5/5


Cop Out

Never before have I walked out of a movie and felt so bad for the people involved in its production. Cop Out is one of those films where you look at the talent and find it hard to believe that they actually think it's good. Kevin Smith, director of such films as Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, helms this travesty, marking his debut directing a movie not written by him. If Cop Out is any indication, he needs to stick to his own stuff. It's only February, but I'm confident this train wreck will be on my worst of the year list.

The film is a humorous (a word I use very loosely here) take on the buddy cop action picture, akin to movies like 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon. But where those oozed with style and provided laughs despite not necessarily being comedies, Cop Out fails miserably. In what is the worst onscreen pairing since Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Gigli, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play Jimmy and Paul, partners who have been together for nine years. Jimmy's daughter, played by Michelle Trachtenberg, is about to get married and wants a huge wedding, $50,000 huge. Jimmy is expected to pay for it, but he and Paul get suspended for a month without pay after a stakeout goes awry and a clerk at a local store gets murdered. Now, the only way to cough up that cash is to sell a rare baseball card he's had since his childhood. Unfortunately, he is assaulted and robbed of the card, which he quickly finds out is now in the hands of the gang suspected of murdering the store clerk, so he and Paul break the rules, as they always do in these types of movies, and set off to crack the case.

I struggled writing that synopsis. The actual movie isn't quite as clear cut. What I just detailed to you above makes more sense and has a better flow to it than the actual film itself. I left out the unnecessary side story about Paul's wife, played by Rashida Jones, and his suspicion that she's cheating on him. I also left out how inconsequential that opening murder is to the story. I even skipped over Jason Lee's part as Jimmy's daughter's new stepfather who is loaded with money and insists on paying for her wedding, which Jimmy's pride won't allow. Besides, he needs some type of motivation to track down the gang. The ruthless murder of an innocent man plays second fiddle to the recovery of that precious baseball card.

But the story's problems lie with more than just the lunacy of it all. It's told haphazardly, like a first time film student editing random scenes together, interrupting action scenes to interject a scene of exposition in the mix. I edited my college video project tighter than this mess.

Kevin Smith, who is solely responsible for the edit hack job, deserves berating for his poor direction as well. Somebody once said that Smith was the Quentin Tarantino of comedies because he can write amazing dialogue and create endearing characters that we want to spend time with. That is true and is the main reason his movies succeed. His directing skills, on the contrary, have never been anything to note, but you were able to ignore that based on his talent as a writer. This is the first film he has ever directed that he didn't write, which makes the lack of competent direction that much more noticeable. Watching him try to stage an action scene is like watching a cat play with a ball of yarn. Just as the cat swats at the ball, never grabbing hold, Smith reaches out and tries to latch onto something exciting, but never gets there. It doesn't take long for that cat's ball to unravel. Smith's action scenes fall apart even faster.

What really kills Cop Out, however, is its utter lack of laughs. The dialogue is missing that Kevin Smith touch and each and every joke crashes down faster than a fat kid's face into pie. The leads have zero chemistry together and Morgan in particular is insufferable. I'll admit I've never liked the guy, but never has a dislike turned into hatred faster than it did here.

Cop Out is one of the most pointless movies I've seen in a long time and is easily the worst film of the year thus far. It pains me to say this because I adore Smith's previous work, but I've only scratched the surface of its problems. It's shocking how inept this production is and I can only hope that Smith looks back on this with a good heart and realizes what a mistake it turned out to be. If he has gotten to the point where he actually thinks this tripe is funny, then God help the future of comedy. We've lost a real talent.

Cop Out receives 0/5