January 12, 2010

Hockey Flick Iced

Hollywood's history with hockey movies is not impressive. The sports status in the United States (somewhere below bowling and darts) means there's been very few hockey films in the first place, but when there are, they usually turn out pretty awful. It's difficult to find a hockey enthusiast that doesn't cringe at the mere mention of the Mighty Duck series. Those films lacked and even passing knowledge of the sport. Case in point: the big, badass, unbeatable foreign club didn't hail from Canada or Russia. They came from Iceland. Even when an entertaining movie about the sport is made, like Slap Shot (which make no mistake is a classic) it still doesn't really fully understand the sport. The premise of that movie is a floundering team in a rust belt down discovers that playing a rough and tough, fight-filled brand of hockey brings in big crowds. Sure, fighting is part of hockey, particularly in the era and minor leagues that the movie depicts, but it's not the mindless never ending brawlfest that Slap Shot depicts. Imagine if a baseball movie were made that focused on pitchers beaning batters. Game after game, the pitchers just threw fastballs at their opponents heads. Baseball enthusiasts would be up in arms.

So I was quite excited when I heard two Canadians, actor Jay Baruchel (best known for Tropic Thunder and also the star of the criminally under-appreciated Judd Apatow TV series Undeclared) and Evan Goldberg, (the writing partner of Seth Rogen, who brought us Superbad and Pineapple Express) had sold a hockey screenplay. My enthusiasm was slightly tempered when I discovered their film was called Goon, obviously focusing on the pugilistic side of the sport yet again, but the respective comedy chops of each writers made me willing to overlook it. It's not just comedy chops either, it's also hockey knowledge. Baruchel, a native Montrealer, is a long time Habs season ticket holder, and I've had the chance to chat hockey with him and he knows his stuff and is a passionate fan of the sport. The director they hired on, Michael Dowse, is also a Canadian, and as the guy that helmed the cult classicsFubar and It's All Gone Pete Tong, I was genuinely psyched to see what these guys were gonna come up with. Well... sadly, it's not gonna happen. The picture was set to start shooting in April, but now comes news that the movie has been shutdown. Baruchel and Goldberg sold their screenplay to a neophyte producing team made up of David Gross and Jesse Shapira (they share a combined zero credits) and it seems the project has fallen apart with shooting just around the corner.

Now, the only hope for a decent hockey movie lies in the hands of Kevin Smith. Smith, who has never been shy to work hockey into his movies (A Felix Potvin Toronto Maple Leafs jersey appeared in Chasing Amy, as well as Sega Hockey, and recently in Zack & Miri Make A Porno, star Seth Rogen played hockey in the film. Smith himself is a huge New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers fan has been discussing his hockey project, Hit Somebody a lot this past year even describing it as "his passion project." So he's got the hockey fan and the knowledge of the game thing covered, but his film, which is based on the Warren Zevon song of the same name, will be about, you guessed it: fighting in hockey. Set in the late 1970's - also known as the goon era of hockey - his film will tell the story of a man who loves the game but can't play very well so he becomes a brawler. Smith's passion for the project and for the sport means I'm willing to give him the beneift of the doubt, but I'd love to see a Hollywood hockey movie that wasn't strictly focused on fighting.

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