Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Steven Spielberg (story), Chris Columbus (screenplay)
Starring: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton
Release Date: June 7, 1985
Runtime: 1 hrs. 54 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
In our lives, there are certain moments, events that will always stick with us and elicit the same emotions they originally wrought those many years ago whenever we think of them. Things like weddings, births, deaths, moves when we were young. But there are other, less dramatic events, that can have a similar effect. A concert, a trip taken with family, or a film seen at the right time, at the right age. For me, The Goonies is one of those films, and today marks the 29th anniversary of the film’s original theatrical release. For people of my generation, watching it again is an enjoyable ride down memory lane; for those of younger generations, read-on – I have a real gem to share with you, one that you may have missed growing up.
The Goonies was released at a time when the name Steven Spielberg was enough on its own to generate a great deal of hype. It came out after a string of hits written, produced, or directed by Spielberg, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark (and the other Indiana Jones flicks), and of course E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, one of the biggest films of all time. With its early June release, its teen demographic, and its pedigree (Spielberg was joined by Chris Columbus as screenwriter (fresh off of Gremlins) and director Richard Donner (The Omen and Superman)), Goonies was positioned well to be a break-out summer hit – and yet it never quite cracked number one at the box office, nor did it pull the audience one might have thought. Granted, it ended up making the top ten highest grossing movies for 1985, but its eventual take was only $61,389,6801, something of a disappointment by Spielberg’s standards.
The movie did, however, eventually find its audience, developing a cult-following among those who fondly remembered its cast of awkward teens, bigger than life baddies, and pirate ghosts with buried treasures. Even today, people make the pilgrimage to Astoria, Oregon, site of the primary filming, in order to visit various locations including Mikey [Sean Astin] and Brand [Josh Brolin]’s house.
So why has this movie endeared itself to millions of current and former awkward teens? For one, it has all the makings of an excellent kids’ adventure film: sympathetic and relatable characters; badguys that are just a little ridiculous, yet dangerous as well; treasure maps to hidden pirate gold; caves and traps to get lost in; and a bit of teenage angst and romance. And there’s Sloth [John Matuszak].
The namesake Goonies are made up of Mikey, Mouth [Corey Feldman], Data [Jonathon Ke Quan (as Ke Huy Quan)], and Chunk [Jeff Cohen]. Mikey and his family are being forced to move, as developers want their property for part of a proposed golf course. The family has until the weekend to either pay what they owe, or vacate the premises. Just in time, they get hold of an old map purporting to show the location of “One-Eyed” Willy’s treasure, a notorious pirate who sailed along the Oregon coast. They’re joined by Mikey’s older brother Brand, as well as cheerleader (and everyone’s crush) Andy [Kerri Green], and tomboy Stef [Martha Plimpton]. Opposing them, and trying to reach the treasure first, are the Fratellis: Jake [Robert Davi], Francis [Joe Pantoliano], and Mama [Anne Ramsey, of “Where’s the beef?” fame]. Their brother/son Sloth also plays a role; chained in the basement beneath the Fratellis’ hideout, he ends up taking a liking to Chunk, and helping the Goonies in their adventure.
Each of the characters represents a familiar teen trope: Brand is the jock, Mikey the normal kid, and Data, Chunk, and Mouth all reflect their nicknames. Even Brand isn’t really a popular kid, a role taken by Andy – and despite her popularity she comes to like and respect the geeks she ends up hanging out with. The movie is about friendship and empowerment, with a good dose of action and fun, and speaks to teens whether they are popular or not. The faceless corporation and the Fratellis represent forces that oppress, and enable the kids to come together and support each other in overcoming that oppression. In its essence, this movie is just as much about standing up to bullies and succeeding in life as it is about hidden treasure and cool adventures. The fact that Donner/Columbus/Spielberg are able to couch such an important message in such an entertaining package, is one of the main reasons this movie has endured now for twenty-nine years, increasing its audience as time passes.
If you have yet to see The Goonies, you’re missing out on a real treat; if you have, what better way to say Happy Birthday than to watch it again?
Steve’s Grade: A
A teen adventure/comedy that hits all the right notes. It’s a bit silly, a bit goofy, and full of stereotypes, but ultimately it is a movie about friendship and finding your inner strength, in order to stand together against bullies and others who would keep you down.
Here’s the extended version of the Cyndi Lauper video for “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” the theme song to the movie. It’s a two-part mini-movie, also directed by Richard Donner, and including cameos by the Goonies gang themselves, as well as Steven Spielberg. In a classic bit of 1980’s kitsch, most of the roles are played by 1980’s era WWF wrestlers and managers (you might know it now as the WWE). You’ll spot Captain Lou Albano (also the voice of Mario in the Super Mario Brothers cartoon series), “Classy” Freddy Blassie, The Iron Sheik, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Nikolai Volkoff, The Fabulous Moolah, and my favorite acting wrestler of all time, Andre the Giant. Enjoy!
1. The Goonies stats at Box Office Mojo. (Accessed June 9, 2014)