No 378 - The Goonies
Director - Richard Donner
I love 80's kids films. I also love 80's Spielberg. Both seem to be pushing the boundaries as to what they could get away with. Take the Goonies. Although it is a film about a group of kids, we begin by setting up the villains - The Fratellis (villains definitely from the Harry and Marv school of criminals). The set up involves a fake suicide (hanging... pretty dark) and a SWEAR. Very naughty. We've not even left the title credits yet... But there has been a jail break, and through a masterful sequence we get to see all of the Goonies.
So let's look at them. The two brothers have a genuinely nice family bond, and are played by young Sean Astin and young Josh Brolin. Which is pretty damned cool if you ask me (though Brolin is probably cooler than Astin). Gradually they meet up with other members of their little team - including the baffling and brilliant Data and the really annoying Chunk - even Chunk speaking is enough to piss me off. I find chunk really annoying - Iconic ironic retro cool or not.
However the team meet up and events move fairly quickly in order to get One Eyed Willie's treasure map into their hands.
And I'm sorry... One Eyed Willie? Is that really appropriate for a kid's film?
And so we move out of the Boom Docks and into a world of adventure. For whilst the Goonies may have a very noble motivation (to get the Pirate treasure, in order to be able to buy their estate and not have it knocked down and turned into a golf course by those evil rich folk) - The Boon Docks are not the nicest looking area.
Because hanging around in houses is fine and can be fun with your friends, but surely every child's dream is to find an ACTUAL functioning treasure map. That is pretty cool.
So, a bunch of children find themselves on a treasure hunt, which begins in a creepy restaurant (which I'll discuss later) and takes them down into tunnels and caves. Let us begin with what I love about these sets.
They are so so fake.
The adventures in the caves and tunnels involve children walking through obviously foam rock land fills and booby traps. It isn't real - it is hokey jokey matinee nonsense. It feels like the temples of Indiana Jones or the Pirate Worlds of Hook and Peter Pan. It is a jokey Disneyland landscape complete with ridiculously intricate Rube Goldberg machines (a theme we see throughout the film - thanks to the gadgets of Data and Willie's intricate traps) and conveniently skull shaped rock formations.
It is utterly preposterous - and yet it works for this romp adventure. You let the silliness wash over you so that even when the Goonies find the treasure (in a perfectly preserved, and still functioning pirate ship), you forget that the ship is over 300 years old and should be rotting. You just let it carry right on.
The film also continues in a wonderfully filmic way - by which I mean that there is no attempt at reality. In particular, the fact that each Goonie has their own task and skill which is necessary for the adventure.
So we have Mouth, who has the ability to read Spanish;
Chunk, who breaks things (convenient in a lot of situations);
Mikey, the leader, with his dogged optimism and perseverance;
Data, who has the gadgets;
Brandon, the muscles;
and Andy, who can play piano (which magically becomes relevant).
Together they use their skills to not only triumph against pirate terrors but also against some naughty counterfeiting criminals.
The Fratellis seem to take a lot of time and effort in trying to catch these children, when really they should be covering up their own criminal activity. They are bumbling and argumentative. They are scared of their mum... And they have a very strange brother.
Sloth - played by John Matuszak under crazy levels of make up.
Sloth is perhaps the weirdest bit of all in The Goonies. The film's official line is that Mama Fratelli dropped him as a baby, several times. Then, rather than pay for medication, he was neglected. This means that whilst he may be physically deformed and a bit mentally slow, he has also acquired superhuman strength. Of course - makes perfect sense.
His bellow of HEY YOU GUYS! brings shivers of nostalgic joy and just continues the film's silly adventure vibe.
I love The Goonies. This film will stay fun and stay exciting forever. After all, Goonies never die.
Incidentally - I couldn't spot a Spielberg cameo - anyone know of one?
Although I did notice that when the police list Chunk's prank calls - one is about a monster which multiplies when you get them wet. Which is a nice touch.