Director: Andrew Neel
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, Gus Halper
Nick Jonas is not an actor, or at least not a good one. With his teen heartthrob status behind him, he's attempted to make the push onto the screen, and his moments have come fairly regularly. Some TV, just getting started in movies; I think we'll see more of him before we see less, but I also think that is a very bad thing. The kid can't act, and nearly brings Goat crashing down around him because of it. The saving grace; a young man who does have talent, Ben Schnetzer. Getting his break in 2013 and not slowing down since then, here's an actor who we can look forward to seeing often over the coming years, a recently-recognized gem who puts this film on his shoulders and very nearly saves the day.
Brothers Brad and Brett love the wild life, partying on the weekends with their friends, hooking up with girls, drinking way too much, and basically enjoying their youth while its present. Brad just graduated from high school and is attempting to decide on his future. Brett, the elder, attends a local college, where he and his frat buddies are all big men on campus. As a sibling, Brad's path in the fraternity is set, if he wants to follow it, with beer and babes waiting for him if he so chooses. But a random robbery turned assault sets Brad back a step, as getting beat up creates an anxiety in him that he'll need more than a month to move past. But rush week is just around the corner, so he'll have to make a plan soon if he wants to be one of the cool kids.
With his "accident" always in the back of his mind, Brad decides to pledge, joining a group of other goats for hell week, a period of hazing and ridicule that is seen as completely necessary by the brothers of the fraternity, since they all went through the same thing. To weed out the weak ones, or so they justify it, the brothers torture the goats, making them drink until the vomit, treating them like animals, tying them up together, using them for target practice, and generally making their lives miserable. Too much of this treatment begins to force Brad to rethink his decision, but it might be too late to back out. His past trauma, his current debasement, they add up to a terrifying experience that is all too common and all too real.
The best moment of the film is when James Franco randomly shows up at the frat house, chugs some Rhinegeist, and makes a motivational speech. No, seriously, that actually happens, and it literally feels like he stumbled onto the set to have a drink. It's the most realistic scene of the movie, and really adds a nice touch of humor. On a more serious note, it also helps audiences understand the potentially positives of a brotherhood like this, how young men could want to be a part of it, how they might do terrible things to earn their place. At its heart, Goat is a story of hazing and why it happens, why anyone would put themselves through it, and why it must be stopped. The message here is unbearably real, so no matter what else fails about the film, at least there's that groundwork laid, and perhaps the moral will touch a few lives before the movie fades away.
Picking apart the feature though, there really isn't much else to brag about. The concept far outshines the delivery, as the details become falling crumbs as you poke into the center. The message is what's important, sure, but we are still audiences, we still need entertaining, and we still won't forgive obvious flaws. The biggest one was Nick Jonas, who couldn't act his way out of a barn with a goat and a mud wrestling pit. I know he's still relatively new to acting, but if he doesn't improve in a hurry, he's going to become a joke. Ben Schnetzer won't, that kid is going places, and he single-handedly saves this film from failure. His character is both believable and likeable, we root for him, and we want him to make it out of this alive. The direction, the side characters, the college; it was all OK, nothing special, and the same can be said of the film as a whole, as it fails to impress and should simply be considered a good try.
Video: With an aspect ratio of 16x9 (Widescreen), the video is the least of the film's concerns. The picture quality is fine, feeling more like an indie film than a studio feature, with no real attention paid to clarity or cinematography.
Audio: The DVD was done in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, with a choice of Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital as well. Also, subtitle options are available in English, French, and Spanish. The audio goes the same way as the video; completely unimpressive.
Extras: There are no special features on this disc.
Recommended. Perhaps if you consider Goat more a lesson on hazing and less an actual movie it can be elevated to a better rating. It has a clear statement to make, is based on a book, and can be seen as impactful if you look at it in a certain way. We know this is a problem, this film sheds light on the subject, and so deserves some respect for having the guts to speak out. However, the film itself isn't of the highest quality, and can't be enjoyed in that way. The dramatic work is so-so, dragged down tremendously by Nick Jonas, and the rest of the cast/crew never really pick it up out of the scrub. The video is not noteworthy, neither is the audio, and there are no special features on the DVD, so look elsewhere for technical marvels. This film is important in a certain way, but the topic would have been better left in other hands.