Film review by Jason Day of The Goonies, the 1985 action movie about a group of kids who hunt for the long lost treasure of an old pirate and are chased by a family of criminals. Starring Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and directed by Richard Donner.
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As they prepare to be chucked out of their home by greedy property developers, brothers Mikey (Sean Astin) and Brand (Josh Brolin) happen upon an old treasure map. According to the legend of pirate ‘One Eyed Willy’, a fortune in treasure was left somewhere around their hometown.
They set off with their pals to find it and save their home from the forced purchasing, chased by the villainous Fratelli crime family.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Andy! You…Goonie!”Steve Antin as Troy.
Sloth love chunk!
Hey you guys!John Mutaszak as Sloth.
Films veer between extremes in any decade but this seems magnified with those made in the ‘decade that taste forgot’ (that’s the 1980’s to those who weren’t the born or are too young to remember).
With the monetary excesses of Wall Street, classic European family stories (Babette’s Feast, Fanny and Alexander), your standard, bums-on-seats blockbusters (Top Gun; in fact, anything with Tom Cruise) to the downright daft and/or odd bod efforts (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Mannequin and anything from David Lynch), it’s enough to make your head spin.
Rather more sensible was the adventure movie which, just like those movies listed above, also did rather well at the box office during this time. The three Indiana Jones movies for instance earned a healthy $600m+ across domestic cinemas.
So, it seemed entirely fitting that the kids should get in on the act. So enter a dream team who knew more than most how to make a cracking, sub-Indiana J treasure hunt epic for tweenage generation (those kids who were too young for Brat Pack movies but definitely more mature than your standard Disney audience).
Director Richard Donner (Superman, 1978), screenwriter Chris Columbus (who’d just penned Gremlins, 1984 and he behind Home Alone, 1990) and the man who help develop the original story was none other than Indiana Jones maestro Steven Spielberg are those who convened to give us The Goonies.
I saluted you then and salute and take my hat off to all of you now. Gentlemen, thank you!
They must have done a grand job. In 2017, the US Library of Congress’ National Film Registry selected The Goonies for preservation, meaning it will not only live on for as long as film preservation and archiving exists, but also joins the serried ranks of other cinema classics such as Greed (1924), Gone With the Wind (1939) and Citizen Kane (1941).
There was a bit of a thing in 80’s movies with male characters speaking perfect, if slightly questionable, European languages. John Candy’s Swedish in Splash! (1984) came from the huge amount of porn movies his character had consumed. Here, the wonderfully gobby Mouth (Corey Feldman) is fluent in drugs and murder-related Spanish, much to the shock of a Mexican maid.
The English language itself is a bit saltier than you’d expect from these filmmakers. Shit is said twice at the start of the movie and there’s a loud and clear “pissed off” later on.
But then, this is a surprisingly adult movie throughout. There is the pantomime scary villain crime syndicate headed by rough-as-a-badgers-wotsits Anne Ramsey. Her progeny include opera singing son Robert Davi (in real-life an accomplished opera singer) and deformed, gentle hulk of a child Sloth (John Mutaszak), who she dropped on his head a few times when he was a baby.
And the theme of corporate greed, so at home in an 80’s movie script, as developers try to gobble up Astin and Brolin’s beloved home, is neatly maintained throughout.
But aside from all of this, the reason why The Goonies is such a great movie is it just gets everything right in terms of a damn good, entertaining adventure. Every layer of fun, mischief and (very safe) danger is laid on with a fine movie trowel.
Every cliché of the genre features but is given a fresh, young adults spin with some new additions: ye olde treasure maps (and a new, freaky skeleton piano) , pirates and pirate ships, hidden booty, booby traps (here, the filmmakers include a thrilling log flume). This all helps build up the suspense and action and, even if it does eventually get silly, the silliness is infectious and delightful.
Even these young performers, as an ensemble, work well together. And there are some disparate elements here with cheerleaders, shy jocks, asthmatics and tech/invention wizards. For me, the best of the bunch was always sassy, sarcastic Martha Plimpton.
No wonder a whole generation of kids back in the 80’s were entranced by this film and still are to this day. It’s a movie whose influence is still felt, for how could Harry Potter and Percy Jackson have appeared without The Goonies coming first?!
Movid geek factoid #1: This film is Chunk actor Jeff Cohen’s only appearance in a theatrically released, mainstream movie. He’s now an attorney.
Movie geek factoid #2: Credited Production Designer J. Michael Riva is one of movie legend Marlene Dietrich’s three grandsons.
Cast & credits
Director: Richard Donner. 1hr 54mins/114mins. Warner Bros./Amblin Entertainment. (PG).
Producers: Harvey Bernhard, Richard Donner.
Writer: Chris Columbus.
Camera: Nick McLean.
Music: Dave Grusin.
Sets: J. Michael Riva.
Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Lupe Ontiveros, Mary Ellen Trainor, Keith Walker.