The Goonies (1985)

The Goonies is one of those movies that managed to escape the '80s with its reputation intact, if not enhanced.  Most of the kids in it have had further careers and are better known as adult actors (except for the Corey Feldman).  The movie looks and feels '80s, and, with Steven Spielberg as the producer, it has that feel associated with the rest of his films from this point in his career, despite being directed by Richard Donner of Superman and Lethal Weapon fame.

So, why is this movie, which has no real monsters and no supernatural happenings (unlike similar Spielberg offerings) a survivor instead of, say, Monster Squad?  For me it's certainly not nostalgia, since I didn't really like the movie when it first came out, due to the fact that it didn't have gremlins, aliens, pirate ghosts or anything as interesting as most of the other movies that were similar.  I think, even though it was a movie aimed nominally at kids, that I was too old to enjoy it when it came out.  However, as an adult, I find much to love. 

Largely I think that is because, since the kids are truly in danger from the villains in this and from the traps set along the way that hinder their quest, that there is a bit of excitement.  When seen at the cynical point where you are entering your teens, you know that all the kids are going to survive, and you know that such an adventure will never truly happen to you.  When you are between 7 and 12 you can still believe in it, and as an adult you can look back at a time when, despite the dangers, this would have been the highlight of your young life if it really happened to you.

Mikey (Sean Astin) is upset because his family is being forced out of their home due to developers eager to build a new development pushing the local bank to foreclose.  He and his friends Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Feldman) and Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) have formed a tight-knit group they call the Goonies, making up different adventures with which to spend their time.  While looking through his father's attic, Mikey finds a map purportedly made by the infamous pirate One-Eyed Willie, showing how to reach the hidden cave in which he stowed his ship and his treasure when pursued by the Spanish.  Mikey convinces the others to go on one last adventure to find One-Eyed Willie's treasure.

Mikey's brother Brand (Josh Brolin) forbids it, but they sneak out anyway.  Unfortunately for them a notorious band of robbers called the Fratellis have recently escaped prison.  Ma Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) and her kids Francis (Joe Pantoliano), Jake (Robert Davi) and Sloth (John Matuszak) have holed up in an abandoned restaurant as they decide what to do next.  Of course, Mikey's map leads the Goonies directly to the restaurant and into the hands of the Fratellis.  Brand and his crush Andy (Kerri Green) and her friend Stef (Martha Plimpton) catch up with the boys and escape into catacombs located under the restaurant and, ultimately, under the town.  Chunk is captured by the Fratellis and they find out about One-Eyed Willie's treasure.  They decide to pursue and kill the boys and take the treasure for themselves.  Chunk, however, befriends the mentally disabled Sloth, who helps him reunite with the rest of the Goonies.

As can be expected, numerous adventures ensue, both as the Fratellis try to murder the band and while the Goonies themselves try to negotiate the numerous booby traps that One-Eyed Willie erected to protect his stash.  And, yes, it all climaxes in the type of 1980s happy ending one would expect.

As fun as the film is, it isn't without its flaws.  Richard Donner wisely chose to the let the kids act like kids throughout, which means there is a lot of yelling and talking between them.  This style of letting actors talk over each other is something that was in style throughout a good portion of the '70s and '80s (Robert Altman's films are a great example), but it's something that has largely gone out of style.  Also, it is the '80s, so some of the language they use between each other is definitely politically incorrect, as is the portrayal of the overweight Chunk (he literally cries when ice cream is taken away from him). I also know that there are some people who will freak out that a main plot point is that the children are, literally, in danger of being murdered by a Ma Barker-inspired band of crooks.

In truth, this is pretty mild when it comes to quibbles people today may have with '80s movies.  Keep in mind that this was supposed to be little more than a fun adventure movie, and it still works today.  There have been talks about a sequel to this, but I'm perfectly okay that their never was one (or a remake, for that matter).  In more ways than one this turned out to be one last grand adventure for kids of the time before we all grew up.

The Goonies (1985)
Time: 114 minutes
Starring: Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen, Jonathan Ke Quan, Jeff Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, John Matuszak
Director: Richard Donner

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