Genre: Action & Adventure
Runtime: 1 hr 50 min
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan, Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, John Matuszak
Review by: ShaneBurridge
Added: 8 years ago
The Golden Age for Kids' Movies must have been the 80s, when Steven Spielberg directed and/or wrote and/or produced a number of handsomely budgeted fantasy/action films that adults enjoyed and kids adored. This era gave rise to a generation with a long-standing devotion to movies like GREMLINS, INDIANA JONES, E.T., BACK TO THE FUTURE, POLTERGEIST, and the occasional non-Spielberg effort like WARGAMES or GHOSTBUSTERS. But as popular as these films remain, THE GOONIES, a comic adventure directed by Richard Donner, is the one that has earned the most noticeable cult following, perhaps because it was one of the few crowd-pleasers of the time that wasn't followed up immediately by a sequel, spinoff, revisitation or elaboration, leaving it like a moment preserved in cinematic amber. It's also likely that THE GOONIES cult perseveres because the movie plays better for adults now than it did back in 1985, when other higher-concept films made its simple storyline look like a throwback to Disney. Then, too, there was the anti-Disney decision to have its cast of kids swear and constantly heckle each other, which some viewers at the time found off-putting - in that respect at least, THE GOONIES may well have been a groundbreaker - but provided it with an element that kept it from appearing dated, for better or worse.
The 'Goonies' - kids who live in an area of town known as the Goondocks (although how property with ocean frontage can be inferred as boondocks is beyond me) - are resigned to spending their last weekend together before property developers claim their homes and they all move out of state. In a last ditch effort to save their homes they embark upon a search for pirate treasure rumored to be buried in nearby caves, running afoul of a group of counterfeiters in the process. The result is pretty much a kid-scale "Raiders of the Lost Treasure", with one cast member having already cut his teeth on an Indiana Jones movie the previous year. Because the story is so thin, Donner and screenwriter Chris Columbus keep the movie as busy as possible - the kids talk fast and overlap each other and the story evolves in a cinematic version of 'real time' where every event unfolds without pause and leads directly to the next. When everything slams to a finish at the final credits, you'll feel more like you were on a theme park ride than at a movie. The movie's finale, where all the kids' parents appear on the beach at the end of their adventure, doesn't make any sense even as a schmaltzy wrapup, but when the gang enthuse about their most memorable moments, you realize they're acting on behalf of the kids in the audience talking about their favorite scenes as they leave the theater with their own parents.
Because the story moves so fast, we don't even question why these kids are friends, so why should it be a big deal if they split up? They're not meant to be lovable, (which is probably a good thing), and if they come over as obnoxious then it's only because of the effective, natural performances that Donner gets out of them. They're so self-absorbed that calling themselves 'The Goonies' is about the only bond they have, other than their status as outsiders (the Fat Kid, the Loudmouth, the Brain, the Puny Kid). They don't call themselves by their real names, which puts them on a parallel plane with the equally infantile Fratelli gang who are referred to as 'Ma', 'Sloth', or just 'your brother' (Fratelli itself isn't even a name - it's just Italian for 'siblings'), who make good villains for the movie because they're more like grown-up bullies than authoritative adults. If the kids are abrasive, then it stands to reason that the bad guys have to be even more so, and Anne Ramsey's portrayal of Ma is so effortlessly over the top that she steals every scene she's in. Now that the brashness of THE GOONIES doesn't seem so unusual, it can be enjoyed as a lively family film. Mention should be made of the film's opening sequence, which choreographs directing, editing and scoring so snappily that the rest of the movie has its work cut out keeping up with it.