by Jason Whyte
Richard Donner's "The Goonies" has amassed a sincere cult following since its theatrical release in 1985. Although not a huge success at the start, the film thrived on video and on subsequent television broadcasts, where we came, time and again, to visit our friends trying to save the Goondocks.For me, "The Goonies" is a sincere childhood memory. I was roughly 6 or 7 years old when I first viewed the film and I quickly fell in love with all the characters and the adventure. Today, I still warm up to it. The whole idea of kids getting into an adventure together, forgetting their differences, trying to save their neighborhood, goes back to the old pulp-comic books that you'd read and couldn't put down during a rainy November afternoon. And hey, what's a pirate film without a rockin' 80's soundtrack, Chunk, and Corey Feldman wearing a "Purple Rain" shirt?
"They're damn good enough."
The whole premise is just goofy: wealthy land owners in Astoria, Oregon, want to foreclose on "The Goondocks", a rather seedy section of town. ("If we don't do something, there's going to be a golf course right where we're standing!") There is a parallel that opens the film, a jailbreak where Mama Fratelli (the late, great Anne Ramsey) gets one of his sons (Robert Davi) out and a wild police chase ensues. This is where we meet the Goonies, starting with Andy (Keri Green) the cheerleader, Mouth (Corey Feldman), a wiseass chatterbox who's dad is a plumber, Stef (Martha Plimpton) who is Andy's friend, Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) who has a lot of inventions that don't always work, Chunk (Jeff Cohen) a pudgy, food loving kid with a penchat for braggery, and finally adventure loving Mikey (Sean Astin) and his brother Brand (Josh Brolin) who ground the story. When the Goonies find a treasure map in their attic (Mikey's dad is the museum curator), they set out to find it, only to run into the Fratelli's hiding out at the place they are heading. (What are the odds?) The restaurant eventually leads to a pathway underground, and with map in hand, The Goonies are set out to find the treasure.
The thrill of adventure is the strongest aspect of "The Goonies." Rube Goldberg death traps, endless trails, waterfalls, a waterslide, a pirate ship, this is what thrill seekers, especially kids, love, and the film's greatest triumph is making you wish you were Mikey, or Mouth, or Chunk on the same adventure. Oh, you can see the seams in the visuals. Matte paintings, obvious sets and optical effects (on the DVD, Jeff Cohen makes sincere mention of a poorly-timed shot and comments "THIS from the guy who made 'Superman'? I believed a man could fly!" dominate the production. It's all done so tongue in cheek, always winking at you and never wanting you to take it seriously.
The kid performers are all terrific, most notably Jeff Cohen as Chunk. I want him as a son. He reminds me of Chuckie from "Rugrats," fearing everything and bragging all the time. When he brags about the opening police chase being the greatest thing he ever saw, Mikey laughinly responds "More amazing than the time Michael Jackson came over to your house to use the bathroom?" "OK, Michael Jackson didn't come over to my house to use the bathroom," Chunk retorts, "But his sister did!" Chunk's finest moment is a "confessional" involving fake puke in a movie theater.
I also loved Jonathan Ke Quan as Data, whose inventions are because of learning from his dad. Maybe they don't always work, but they are funny, and Data's energy is admirable. Sean Astin is also very good here as main guy Mikey, but my favorite performance of his comes from "Rudy." Corey Feldman has the right sense of smartass "style" of so many '80s pre-teens. And Keri Green and Martha Plimpton are hilarious as the only teenage girls in the gang.
I must also make mention of the adults. Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano and Robert Davi are very funny as bumbling crooks, and John Matusak as Sloth, the deformed, locked-up brother who bonds with Chunk adds an interesting level to the story. And who can forget the awful Troy Parker, Andy's ex-boyfriend, who has an unforgettable cry of horror when he learns Andy has went to the side of the Goonies?
Is "The Goonies" the greatest kids movie ever made? Well, no, but for me, it came at the right time, and I got caught right up in the cult following. It's a happy, well-made film, polished and directed very well by Richard Donner, that in 114 minutes gives the viewer a good, kid-friendly thrill.Side note: The special-edition DVD of this film is strongly recommended for a hilarious, insightful commentary track by director Donner and all of the Goonie actors. It's very revealing as to how all the actors have come since the film's 1985 release. And Chunk is a lawyer!
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originally posted: 04/08/04 17:49:47