The Goonies (1985): An Over Indulgent But Good Children’s Coming of Age Tale

The_Goonies

 

“The Goonies,” is a good but not great film. I get into the reasons for this later but a huge portion is it is hard to take any of the villains seriously and product placement.

“The Goonies” is also a film I hadn’t seen for years, so seeing it again with new eyes also gave me an appreciation for everything that worked and didn’t work in the film. The story was written by Steven Spielberg, with Chris Columbus doing the screenplay while Richard Donner was one of the producers and also directed the film. The other producer was Harvey Bernhard.

The story involves a group of kids called The Goonies made up of Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) the inventor, Mouth (Corey Feldman) the bully, Chunk (Jeff Cohen) the nervous kid who likes to eat a lot and tells tall tales and Mikey (Sean Astin) the leader. They live Astoria, OR where their homes are being foreclosed on and go on a quest for One-Eyed Willie’s Pirate Treasure when they find a map in Mikey’s father’s things. Around this time the Fratellis are being chased down the cops and go out in the woods to hide. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Goonies – The Goonies are great characters. I’ll describe why below.

Data – Ke Quan is fantastic in this role! He isn’t annoying like when he played Short Round in “Temple of Doom” and is a super creative character, with lots of inventions that they put to use to stop the Fratellis and get to the treasure. We learn later his dad is an inventor too. His arc is his facing of his fears as he is the one of the ones who wants to leave when they have a chance to escape up the well.

Mouth – Mouth goes from being a prick to a nice guy. This is partially due to his attraction to Stef and in the end they both balance one another out as his laid back attitude rubs off on her and her caring attitude rubs off on him. Hated this character for the first third because of how much of a bully he was to Chunk. He acts as translator of the map since he knows Spanish.

Chunk – This is the character who becomes friends with my favorite character, Sloth Fratelli in the movie. He is anxious but uses that to his advantage when he stalls the Fratellis during his questioning. It is also his kindness that leads to Sloth breaking them out of their cell and saving the Goonies.

Sloth – The abused and deformed Fratelli who just wants to be cared for. This character is great and has been completely shaped by television since that’s all his mother and brother left him in his cell. For this reason we see him adopt the hero role when he is treated with kindness and saves all the Goonies at the end as well as being taken into Chunk’s family. He is by far the best character in the film and shows not to judge by appearances.

Stef – She started out really annoying but came around and was the one who actually had a character arc out of all the teenagers traveling with the Goonies. She finds joy in the adventure in the end and is there to add perspective to amazing places like the wishing well.

Mikey – Is the leader of the Goonies played by Sean Astin. His role is fighting to keep their homes from being foreclosed on and driving the adventure forward. When they have the chance to escape he tells them that they need to take of their parents now as they’ve been taken care of and that they should take risks and not live with regret. He is a kind character who was a good choice for the lead.

The Adventure – The Adventure to get the treasure is amazing! They go underneath the town, travel through trap filled caves and have to have a skeleton piano played to reach the treasure and the pirate ship. The adventure is the best part of the story besides The Goonies.

Okay: Andy and Brand – The generic teens along for the ride. They are attracted to each other and eventually get together. Brand is also Mikey’s older brother but not nearly enough is done with that relationship.

Momma Fratelli – The only Fratelli that felt like a threat since she threatens to cut out Mouth’s tongue at one point. Besides that she’s just as much of a joke villain as her kids.

The Cons: The Villains – Most of the villains are one dimensional jokes, which doesn’t help if they are supposed to provide tension.

The Fratelli Brothers – They brake one out of prison but they never shoot to kill, they are also constantly bickering which makes their threat level go down. They have some slap stick humor moments happen to them too which doesn’t help their case for being villains worthy of fear.

The Suits – The guys coming to foreclose on 50 houses in the neighborhood to build a country club and golf course. They have no personality traits beyond dickishness and are a waste of characters. I get they are the bad guys, doesn’t mean they have to be caricatures.

Product Placement – There are two really big product placement moments…when Sloth breaks his chains to get the Baby Ruth that he and Chunk share and at the end when someone brings Domino’s which is Chunk’s favorite pizza. It isn’t subtle at all as the camera lingers on the Baby Ruth and Domino’s label.

This film is based on a story that Spielberg wrote, but you can tell he didn’t direct as the quality of the direction isn’t super memorable. I attribute this more to Richard Donner and the problems with the villains to the screenplay by Chris Columbus. It still is a fun movie I’d recommend, but it’s problems are extremely apparent. The best parts of the film are the adventure to get the treasure and the moments with Sloth and with  The Goonies.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good with problems.

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