When a movie like “The Goonies” becomes so ingrained in the pop culture landscape, it’s “almost” easy to see it less as the family adventure that remains an influential piece of the 1980s, and more a commodity that Warner Bros. can use to sell ‘Truffle Shuffle’ merchandise. I say “almost” because upon a rewatch, I was thoroughly charmed by the sense of adventure that hasn’t wavered since its release over 35 years ago.
What did the movies you saw as a kid remind you of your childhood? Were you enamored by flashy colors or maybe because they reminded you of the way you behaved? I have to say, spending the past few weeks revisiting those youthful favorites of mine was an interesting experience. Some have held up better than others, naturally. I wasn’t even a concept when “The Goonies” originally came out, but I grew up with - and still own - the black clamshell VHS I frequently watched it on. Here’s the thing though. I was a very awkward child who mostly kept to themselves unless another small human being came up to say hello. I never really had a friend posse where each kid had an interesting skill to show off. But I did recognize one thing, however, that gave me a new appreciation for it this time around - the chaotic nature of children.
On the eve of snobby land developers demolishing their homes, a band of adventurous boondock children discover a hidden treasure map that directly leads to a shipload of jewels belonging to One-Eyed Willy - a discovery that holds the power of fixing their predicament. And if the intricately placed booby traps weren’t enough, a dangerous fugitive family known as the Fratellis (Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano) are on their tail every step of the way.
You have Richard Donner (“Superman: The Movie”) directing, Chris Columbus (“Home Alone”) writing, and Steven Spielberg (“E.T.”) as executive producer. In every case, that’s a triage of top-tier talent right there. I mostly wanted to write this as a tribute to Donner, who unfortunately passed away a few months ago. From buddy cop movies (“Lethal Weapon”) to the spawn of Satan (“The Omen”), Donner’s range is outstanding. It’s a tremendous shame he’s no longer with us, but he’s left behind some of the most memorable movies of their eras. I went digging into the Blu-ray bonus features and found a wonderful quote from him that best suits the theme of this piece.
“They’re the warmest, craziest little things that have come into my life,” Donner says in a 1985 behind the scenes featurette regarding the “Goonies” child actors. He continues saying just how hectic it is to get seven child actors to hit their marks, but at the end of the day, you can see in his playful directing just how much he loves them. We should feel so lucky that we have a movie like “The Goonies” which still endures over three decades years later, helmed by a kindhearted man who truly understood the chaos of childhood.
I don’t know if any one of you know this but children *doubles checks surrounding* can be very loud. The micro human beings have yet to understand how violently the concept of adulthood is going to rip away their innocence in a few years time. Then again, the past year-and-a-half has
shown them how the adults they’ve entrusted are totally cool with screwing them over because selfishness is easier than kindness. “The Goonies” has a reputation amongst its naysayers that the kids themselves are obnoxiously loud. And you know what? I agree, but that’s what makes them great.
While I shudder at screaming children while I’m at work, I recognize childhood is a really messy time in everyone’s life and can’t always be easy to handle. But “The Goonies” is no ordinary coming-of-age tale. They don’t exactly learn any life lessons besides living in the moment. They make fun of one another, sure, and even overlap each other’s conversations. Everybody is yelling all at once, but if you’ve seen a group of kids together, it’s really not that far off.
What makes them feel even more real, besides the on-set bonding between the actors, are the perils they face. It’s not every day that a 12-year-old is faced with centuries old booby traps, but also a family of criminals that you can actually see harming them. I mean, this is when the PG rating actually had a mean edge to it - just teetering on the edge of an R. The 1986 school of PG means Mama Fratelli holding a switchblade to Corey Feldman’s mouth and threatening to cut his tongue out with gleeful abandon.
When I look back at “The Goonies,” I see the big brother affection of Brand (Josh Brolin), the panicking disposition of Chunk (Jeff Cohen), the overconfidence of Mouth (Corey Feldman), the innocence of Andy (Kerri Green), the best friend loyalty of Stef (Martha Plimpton), the whiz kid creativity of Data (Ke Huy Quan) and, most importantly, the bravery of Mikey (Sean Astin).
It’s not too late to find your own adventure. Check your attics. Check your closets. You never know what childhood wonders await you. Don’t feel ashamed to be a kid inside, especially right now. See you in the next life, Richard.
Does “The Goonies” still hold up for you? What are some of your favorite movies that capture the loud spirit of childhood? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. Stay safe. Get your shots. Be kind.