The self-styled Goonies are a group of kids – Mikey, Mouth, Chunk and Data – who find their childhoods in jeopardy when a golf course is scheduled to be built in place of their homes. Days before the final contracts are to be signed by their parents, the kids find a treasure map in Mikey’s attic and, accompanied by Mikey’s older brother Brand and girls Andy and Stef, the kids set out in search of the treasure that could save their homes. However, the villainous Fratelli family have just busted one of their number out of prison, and they stand in the kids’ way.
The Goonies won the Movie of the Month over at the Lamb for February this year when my Lambcast co-host Robert championed it after having lost several times in the past, and you can listen to the podcast episode we recorded on it here. Technically I’d seen the film before, but not for a long time, and I’d never paid it enough attention to actually remember anything about it, so it was high time for a re-watch of this so-called childhood classic that I’d somehow missed out on during my actual childhood, which I’m still not positive actually existed. I can prove this by how little I enjoyed about The Goonies.
If you hold this film dear, then I suggest you depart this review now, because it may not be smooth sailing for you. I’ve been informed on many occasions that I am, amongst other things, dead inside and a cold-hearted, bitter individual incapable of experiencing such regular human emotions as joy, happiness and nostalgia for one’s youth. Also, bear in mind that I also didn’t like Stand By Me nearly as much as everyone else seems to, so by all means please disregard any opinions I have in favour of your own. This is one of those instances where I’m fully aware that my opinion is most probably incorrect, but it is my opinion, and this is my blog, which the Internet has told me is the very place to post wildly incorrect opinions, so that’s what I’m going to do. Also, spoilers. Lots of spoilers.So, what’s wrong with The Goonies? A lot. Let’s run through this chronologically, shall we? The film opens with a jailbreak, with Mama and Francis Fratelli (Anne Ramsey and Joe Pantoliano) breaking Jake Fratelli (Robert Davi) out of prison, in easily the most awkward, least slick and most reliant on good fortune prison break in cinema history. Jake essentially knocks out one guard and strolls out of the county jail, where his family have set up a very small, easily-jumped-over fire barrier to prevent the many fully conscious guards from pursuing. We then get an actually very well implemented chase through town, with the Fratellis driving past all the major characters we will follow for the rest of the film, and introducing them succinctly by manor of their each and only trait. Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) is an inventor of wacky gadgets that rarely work, Mouth (Corey Feldman) is a loud-mouthed fool, Andy (Kerri Green) is a cheerleader, Stef (Martha Plimpton) is a more plain-looking girl (seriously, those are their characters, but more on that later), and Chunk (Jeff Cohen) is a big fat dumbass who, despite being focussed on nothing but food for the rest of the film, is so distracted by the car racing past that he accidentally smooshes his pizza and milkshake into the window. Any good points this introductory scene brings are alas quickly forgotten when we rejoin the Fratellis, whose method of escape sees them driving onto a beach just in time for their car to become lost amongst an off-road car race. At just a few minutes in, I’d already checked out of the film for simply being too darn silly. I know, at its core this is a kids’ film, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t make some degree of sense. This is just ridiculous.
There’s two main characters, possibly the most major of the characters, that have yet to be introduced. These are Mikey (Sean Astin) and Brand (Josh Brolin). Brand is always exercising, but is a bit down in the dumps because he just failed his driving test, and is stuck looking after his kid brother and his friends whilst their mother is busy packing up the house for the move. Mikey is something of a sad sack, which you can tell because he has asthma so he isn’t allowed out of the house in the cold, but don’t worry, his asthma gets cured by going on an adventure later, so that’s all fine. Mikey’s friends all arrive one-by-one to their house, including Chunk, who is only allowed entrance after doing a degrading dance called the “Truffle Shuffle,” which is the only way Mouth will release a Rube Goldberg-like mechanism to open the gate to the front garden. It’s unclear exactly how Mouth arrived mere minutes earlier without navigating this contraption. The set-up involves several elaborate moving parts including a bowling ball sat under a bucket, a rugby ball waiting to be launched at a target and a rotary sprinkler which, when activated, will pull the gate open. Normally I like these kinds of contraptions – I was a big fan of the Honey I Shrunk/Blew Up the Kids films for two reasons: the inventions and Rick Moranis – but here it seems to be included just for the sake of it, with no real purpose. And it also involves a balloon being inflated and burst to frighten a chicken into laying an egg, which I’m pretty sure is a little bit implausible. And how long does this take to set up again? Do they put it in place every time someone comes round? Why? If the chicken is magic enough to produce an egg every time a balloon is burst near it, why aren’t they perpetually scaring the chicken and making enough eggs to sell commercially, thereby earning enough money to save the house?Next, the gang all heads into the attic to have a poke around at Mikey and Brand’s parent’s stuff. Mikey finds a map in a frame, and he wants to get it out. We learned earlier that Chunk’s only talent, other than childhood obesity, is for dropping or breaking things, so when Mikey needs to get the map out of the frame he simply hands it to Chunk and starts a countdown until Chunk inevitably drops the frame and breaks it, thereby releasing the map. Now, surely if all it took was to drop the map Mikey would have been more than capable of simply letting it go himself, rather than passing it on to someone else purely because he knows he’ll drop it? This further builds on the theory that these so-called characters only have one trait apiece, and if Mikey hadn’t handed the map to Chunk to break, there’d be absolutely no purpose for Chunk in the attic. The gang all decide to head out in search of the treasure shown on the map, but first they tie Brand up to a chair and sabotage his bicycle so he can’t chase them. Except they don’t. All they do is remove the dust caps from his tyres, so the worst that could possibly happen is that the next time Brand tries to pump up his bike tyres, he’ll find a bit of grit and mud he needs to scoop out first. Heaven forbid. Yet, when Brand discovers this act of vandalism, he goes berserk, exclaiming that the kids have destroyed the brand new tyres he’d saved up for. They hadn’t touched the tyres! And even if by some miracle removing the dust caps also caused the inner tubes to deflate, the tyres would still be just fine. I’m a cyclist; this annoyed me.
Brand is sent by his mother to track down Mikey and co., and therefore has to commandeer a small girl’s bicycle and, of course, when he’s out on this ridiculously embarrassing vehicle he is seen by Troy (Steve Antin), the resident jock arsehole required by law to be present in these kinds of films (it turns out he’s also the son of the man planning to knock down all the houses to build the golf course), along with Stef and Andy, whom Troy is giving a ride in his car. To humiliate Brand and show off more in front of the girls, Troy grabs Brand’s arm and drags him along the side of the car. For some reason Brand, clearly panicked by the situation, completely forgets how bicycles work and starts pedalling furiously to keep up with the speeding car. That’s not how bicycles work. At all. Also, Troy releases Brand as they approach a corner with no barriers, overlooking a cliff, which Brand cycles off. So Troy just killed Brand, with two witnesses. (Somehow this doesn’t happen, as Brand shows up later unharmed, but my initial reaction to this scene was “Holy shit! Troy just killed Brand!”
The younger kids make their way to an apparently abandoned restaurant, as per the treasure map, only to find the Fratelli clan have set up their base of operations there. I’m not entirely sure exactly what they were doing, other than simply existing in a fairly nefarious state, and they don’t take too kindly to this rabble of youths who show up to spoil their plans. Zombie Brand finds them, as do the girls, who ditched Troy and miraculous found their way to the rest of the group, and everyone creeps around the restaurant, eventually heading into the basement and underground, but not before Chunk, who literally brings nothing of any value to the group (Mouth can read Spanish, Data has a compass, Mikey has the plan and motivation) so when he gets separated and sent to fetch the police, I thought he would finally be of some use. Alas no, as Chunk finds himself caught and locked up with Sloth (John Matuszak), another Fratelli brother with a deformed face who his family keep chained up. When we first meet Sloth, it’s in a scene where Robert Davi is singing, which I loved because Davi has his own set of swing albums, and also because Robert Davi is generally awesome (as is Joe Pantoliano, but he doesn’t sing in the film). Chunk’s attempted escape did lead for the most visually impressive shot in the film, as he comes across a car and explains why he’s running for help, only for the light in the car to turn on, revealing Davi’s face reflected in the wing mirror. I do enjoy this kind of direction, whereby no cuts are required to show more than one thing occurring.I know they’re kids, but the main characters in this film are all inherently stupid, and really very irritating. Even Data, the genius inventor, shows a complete break from reality when they discover large sheets of paper with counterfeit dollars printed on one side. Data cant seem to understand that it isn’t real money, despite the fact that it’s on big sheets, and has nothing on the back. Earlier, Mouth shows an inability to move out of the way from water gushing in his face, and Chunk, when trying to drink from a water cooler, pours the water straight into his eye. Stupid, the lot of them. I’ve always claimed Ke Quan’s character from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Short Round, was the most annoying child character on screen, but now Corey Feldman’s Mouth gives him a run for his money with just how intolerable he is here.
Something that really annoyed me about this film was how it would introduce various elements, and then do nothing with them. Take Stef, for example. Her role in the film is to argue with Mouth and be less attractive than Andy, which to be fair is quite easy. It was looking bright that she might have something to do when, during a scuffle, her oversized glasses are broken, rendering her unable to see. And then nothing happens because of this. At all. What was even the point of bringing this up? I understand there’s a deleted scene on YouTube where she gets attacked by the ropiest looking cephalopod this side of Sharktopus, but even then her poor eyesight doesn’t enter into the mechanics of the scene. When a character goes blind in The Great Escape, they do something with it. In The Goonies, it’s just something that happens, with no consequences other than come the climax one character suddenly finding her more attractive, which of course wouldn’t have been possible had she still been wearing glasses, because who could possibly be hot when there’s glass covering bits of their face? Ewww.So Stef has nothing to do, but what about Andy? Technically she’s the female lead on the side of the protagonists (Anne Ramsey would steal the female lead role overall though) and as female characters go I’m struggling to think of a worse one. Andy’s role is to replace Chunk as the group’s biggest burden once he becomes otherwise engaged with the Fratellis. Once the seriousness of their situation becomes clear (to the kids, I never felt like anyone was in any danger after Brand fell down a cliff and didn’t even receive a bruise), Andy suffers a breakdown and becomes a useless, gibbering wreck. Apparently she and Stef cut loose from Troy because he kept trying to look down Andy’s top. Andy now has second thoughts, thinking that being on an adventure is turning out to be a lot worse than hanging out with a pervert, and who knows what would have happened if it had just been Troy and Andy alone for an afternoon. I’m not saying Troy is a rapist, but, well, actually he probably is. OK, so later Andy gets a chance to shine via the piano-mechanism, but she doesn’t exactly do it very well, does she? En route to the treasure there are some booby traps, and one scene sees the male kids trying to work one of them out, so of course the girls should get out of the way, because what help could they possibly be? Let’s even ignore the fact that the girls are the second and third oldest people on this mission, by a good few years. Which makes Andy needing Mikey to hold her hand to get through things even more irritating. Oh, and when Mikey sets off a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style trap involving falling rocks and giant swinging blades, which Andy, Stef and Data must navigate to reach safety, I felt absolutely no danger whatsoever. It felt like a particularly tame level on The Crystal Maze, but so much the worse for not being hosted by Richard O’Brien.At one point the gang, who are still some way underground, come across a well, which coincidentally Troy is at the top of, with two of his buddies. They see Andy is down there, and offer to help her out, which prompts Mikey to give his famous, inspirational, terrible speech, coercing the others to stay on the mission. Troy’s buddies don’t know this, and they haul up a bucket which they think contains Andy, only to discover that once the bucket reaches the top of the well it only contains the football jersey Troy had given to Andy. OK, two things: 1) how light did Troy’s friends think Andy was if they thought a sweater was her? And 2) if Troy was so blatantly looking down Andy’s top earlier, surely he’s missing out on a prime boob-ogling opportunity by being situated directly above her whilst she is being lifted out of a well? This gag falls apart with even the slightest scrutiny. And I’m not even going to get into how the toy teeth on the mechanism that prevents Data from falling onto the spikes could possibly have enough clamping power to save him.Earlier I mentioned a piano that Andy has to play in order to open a tunnel. When she plays wrong notes, segments of the floor collapse. This seems like a strange trap to set, seeing as it means the death of people who aren’t playing the piano, so the trap-setter would have foreseen a large group of people coming to claim the treasure. One person on their own would have no difficulty, it seems. However, even once the floor has all fallen away, there’s still a fairly wide walkway hugging the wall from the room’s opening to the tunnel, which is used quite easily by the Fratellis. Makes it all seem a little pointless, doesn’t it?
So, they get to One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship full of treasure. Fine. And they start loading up their pockets with gold (at which point I’m guessing Andy regretted sending Troy’s jersey up the well, as they could have used that as a makeshift bag to carry loads of stuff), but no-one even thinks to fill up Data’s backpack with treasure? Also, when the Fratellis come across the kids and the treasure, there’s a fight between the two, mainly involving Data, which feels like the first run-through of a school’s stage production. It’s awkward, with everyone getting in each other’s way and feeling more clumsy than anything else. Later, once the kids have all been caught, Mama Fratelli pushes Andy off the side of the boat, and stands right next to the side. Brand rushes to save her, running straight past Mama and diving in to save Andy. Couldn’t he at least have tried to push Mama in, but she sidesteps and he falls in?Anyway, everyone escapes, Mikey manages to retain enough jewels to save their home, and then we’re treated to the single worst happily ever after scene in any film, ever, with all the kids’ parents there to safely welcome their children into the outside world once again. Chunk’s mother shows up with a pizza, which got a laugh from me, but Data’s interaction with his father, whose camera contraption malfunctions, was unbearable: “That’s OK Daddy, you can’t hug a photograph.” to which his father replies “You’re my best innovation.” Gag. Mouth tells Stef that her looks are kind of pretty when her face doesn’t screw it up, Chunk tells Sloth that the two of them are going to live together now (without consulting Chunk’s parents or any kind of proper authority who may have issues with a small child taking in a mentally disabled man), and Brand discovers Andy, who he’s been trying to kiss for most of the movie, has already kissed his younger brother. Hilarity fails to ensue. Oh, and once Mikey and Brand’s father discovers Mikey’s jewels just before he was about to sign the final contract, he exclaims “There’ll be no more signing today, or ever again!” in the most ridiculous, hammy, overly dramatic way possible.
So, basically, I didn’t like The Goonies. If you do, fine. I’m not going to take that away from you. I’m just also never going to watch this garbage ever again.
Choose Life 4/10