The Goonies – (1985)
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Sean Austin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldmen, Jeff Cohen, Jonathan Ke Quan
Screenplay by: Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus
The 80s and 90s approach to family entertainment geared mostly towards kids differ vastly. The 80s, with its not-so-subtle Cold War approach, utilized a 1950s convention of the heroes beating and overcoming an “Other” (Nazis, Russians, etc.) under the spirit of American-esque togetherness. The 90s, however, mainly tried to push kids to being heard and noticed; children escaping the complex scenario of awkward, screwed up childhoods to have a voice and be recognized as part of society, instead of being “seen and not heard”. Nickelodeon’s “Kids Pick the President” and “Kids Choice Awards” are two examples; Animorphs and the Goosebumps series are two more.
So, as a child of the 90s, I fully grasp that 90s mentality over the 80s one, which, I’ll admit to you now, makes me biased in that regard. Still, there’s the mere sake of making a good movie overall, regardless of time period, context, and social upbringing. So, while a part of me will automatically discredit this movie for its 8os-ness, I will force myself through it and give a real assessment as non-partially as I can.
NOSTALGIC LENS: I remember my father trying to get me to like it. That’s not necessarily true; he was trying to get me to understand it. He joked that the producers were hoping that Chunk become the next “it” kid, and while the movie did well, Jeff Cohen didn’t exactly become the next Macaulay Culkin. Needless to say, I didn’t like it too much; I never really had a desire to find treasure, and I never dug the bumbling badguys either; there’s stupid, and then there’s down right retarded. The only redeeming factor was when a friend got me watching the audio commentary; watching Donner try to expel some sort of idea of the craft while the cast for the most part acts retarded is pure gold. (Seriously, I haven’t seen that great of a “I don’t want to be here” face since Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.)
DOES IT HOLD UP: Heh. Heh heh heh.
Doing this feature has been rather eye-opening, in that my evocative, rose-tinted glasses are now officially destroyed. As you’ve noticed in my last posts, I haven’t truly glorified any of my past favorite movies in any beyond-nostalgic way (save for The Great Mouse Detective), and I have called out all those movies flaws when I saw them. I’m not going to make an exception for this one. So if you can’t make an argument other than “But I loved this movie as child!” or “But you had to understand it was the 80s!” then I would only suggest to seriously re-watch a bunch of your own, personal childhood movies and honestly assess whether they hold up.
With that being said… this movie isn’t too bad.
I’m not going to harp on the bad continuity or plot flaws, which, clearly, a movie like this didn’t particularly pay much attention to. It’s about kids going on an adventure, and gosh-darnit, that’s all that matters! Still, I will point out my four main issues with this film: 1) bad editing, 2) bad sound design, 3) it’s overall boring, and 4) ANDY.
The first two points are pretty much evident in the infamous “Truffle Shuffle” scene:
Of the Truffle Shuffle itself, we only see Chunk do two-and-a-half seconds of it. Is there more to this? Sure seems like it, considering Chunk is making a shit-ton of noise with it as well, but his voice seems to be coming from somewhere else, regardless whether the camera focuses on Chunk or Mouth or Mikey. Editing and sound actually get more and more worse as the movie progresses, which may sound like nit-picking, but it’s really more distracting than you may think.
The Goonies, a bunch of kids from the “Goon Docks” (I don’t know what this even means) are faced with the very real threat of being forced to move as some rich developers take control of the town of Astoria. In an odd set of circumstances, the kids stumble on a treasure map, and with their last adventure staring them in the face, they decide to just go for it. Which where my third points come in; I never felt the Goonies were in any real danger, even when faced with the Fratelli Family or stuck in the booby-trapped cave. It all seemed like a make-believe story made real, as if the Goonies themselves were imagining all this in their backyard. (To be fair, it does get a little more interesting when the bullet – yes, singular – fly and when they almost fall into a dark blue void while playing an organ made of bones).
And Andy. Andy, Andy, Andy. This abomination of the silver screen reeked so terribly that her mere presence sunk the already-established mediocrity to a depth so low that I wanted to cry. Never have I felt the urge to murder a human being as much as her. To use the internet parlance, seeing her was an instantaneous “WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN” moment. Even at the cusp of death and destruction, she complete whores herself out to kiss Brent, kisses Mikey by accident, and confusedly asks her (I’m going to go ahead and say) lesbian friend Stef whether Brent had braces or not. Is this for real? This is bad, even for 80s standards. I had to physically get up out my seat after that.
But even with all those flaws, and believe me, they are very big flaws, the movie does breathe a little life into itself with a few key moments, specifically with Mikey and the cinematography. Mikey (a young Sean Austin who wowed me in Lord of the Rings) brings a lot of depth to a role with enough cheese and 80s-ness to fill a Duran Duran album. He seems the most upset with the move, and his plucky energy combined with his asthmatic struggles creates enough plausibility to believe that, yes, these kids are desperate enough to risk their lives to save their town and everything they hold dear. He delivers his speeches with heart and manages to make a surprisingly poignant speech sequence about the moment being their last, only time.
I wish I could have heard what Richard Donner had to say about that craft, because some of the individual shots are quite lovely, even when inside the caves and generic homes. Part of what makes it all works, though, is the kids seem very comfortable with the space around them. They’re loud, obnoxious, random, and talkative, just like a group of close friends would be. While the cuts and edits are for the most part atrocious, when the camera lingers on the Goonies while they screw around, act silly, solve puzzles, or overall panic, it’s actually interesting to see them in action. It’s like a youthful, bare-bones technological version of the rich, deep focus scenes of Welles’ Citizen Kane or Renoir’s The Rules of the Game. This waterfall scene is a pretty good example.
Of course, in the last thirty minutes, everything wraps up WAY too nicely per the 80s parlance when the Goonies stop the Fratellis (who are so moronic that it’s not even fun in a cheesy way), save Sloth, and free One-Eye Willy’s ship, and still manages to steal enough jewels to save the rec center—er, their town from the rich developers. Hugs and kisses all around, the kids learn a lesson, etc. Like the ship at the end of the movie, I kind of coasted my way through it all.
IN A NUTSHELL: It’s not as terrible as I remember it, but it’s still pretty bad. It’s not even “cute,” and outside of a nostalgic viewpoint or a ironic one, I can’t really see someone genuinely saying this is a good movie, or an enjoyable one. Still, I did at the very least like some parts, and from a visual aspect, it looks quite lovely. But poor editing and sound, and a shitty, shitty turn by Andy definitely make this a movie I can be without.
So in summary: Jumanji kids exist in a world where they are no different than the people around them—all expendable, all equal—yet all capable of doing great things when working together. The Goonies kids are up against the world and non-believes, rejects who seem invincible when they bond together, able to stand up against anything thrown their way. Both can be cheesy, both can be rich; I wonder if one’s temporal context determines which movie people prefer. (Oh– serious question: Are the Goonies even rejects? That confused me; they ALL had both their parents at then end of the movie, so it’s hard to see any sense of neglect or isolation. Mickey seems to try and embody this the most, but there’s really nothing of substance there, plot-wise. Being forced to move incites feelings of depression and sorrow– not neglect and rejection.)
[Oh, my favorite Chunk moment:
“Soda pop! Oh boy, am I thirsty!”
Checks inside of soda pop dispenser and sees it was empty.
September 14th: Super Mario Bros. The Movie
September 21th: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (YES.)