When I posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was currently watching The Goonies for the first time, the incredulity was palpable. I’m not particularly well-versed in the ’80s films that my generation considers essential, but for some reason, this one has been coming up more and more often lately, so I bit the bullet even though I didn’t expect to get a lot out of it. For some reason ’80s movies often rub me the wrong way, or at least I have trouble buying into their particular brand of goofiness. The fact that several friends who didn’t watch the film until they were adults reported not really caring for it didn’t help.
Well, I don’t know if it was those low expectations, or my overall positive frame of mind this year, or if I just have a huge soft spot for adventure films, but I pretty much loved this. The set-up of the kids’ families about to be kicked out of their homes had me a little confused at first (who’s moving? why? how will money help?), but once I realized that it’s basically a McGuffin, I was fine. The rest of the plot, following a group of kids following an old treasure map to try to find pirate treasure is right up my alley, and the backstory was just enough to give the story stakes – if they don’t find the treasure, they lose their homes; it’s more than just fun and games, though of course it is that as well. It’s like Indiana Jones meets Home Alone, what with the bumbling criminals always one step behind the kids.
If anything, the criminal subplot is the weak part of the film, but I enjoyed it for a number of reasons. First off, it led to some truly scary moments, like when they open the freezer and the body pops out. Kids’ movies these days really shy away from showing anything frightening, and having the crap scared out of you in a safe, controlled environment like a movie is, I think, an important part of growing up. Of course, the booby-trapped trail led to some of this as well, like when Data falls in the hole and there are REAL SPIKES down there that would have KILLED HIM if not for his miraculous teeth rope gadget, not to mention whenever a corpse turns up. Also, even though she got pretty over the top by the end, I liked seeing the crime family led by a matriarch, which isn’t too common. And finally, Sloth is awesome. At first truly frightening, and then truly lovable. And let’s just say, for a kids movie, a family keeping their son/sibling chained up like an animal because he’s deformed is pretty freaking dark.
I also liked how the plot gave each of the kids a real chance to shine, their skills getting them through the next obstacle without making it too overt that “oh, now we’re going to let THIS KID use his one skill.” I mean, that’s sort of what was happening, but it all felt pretty organic within the story. For instance, it seemed like the two girls were just along to be girly, but the fact that one of them had had piano lessons allowed them to get through the organ trap. That wasn’t even really foreshadowed either, just “oh, I play the piano, let me do this one.”
Overall, I was impressed with just how scary the film was allowed to be, and how much danger it put the kids in. With today’s helicopter parents and nanny state, this sort of thing would never happen even in a film. (Of course, it begs the question of where the parents were during all this, sort of like E.T. does, but from a kid-centric adventure point of view, it worked.) All the adventure moments worked great for me, and I miss this sort of whiz-bang fun adventure film made for any audience. Most adventure films these days have lost their sense of fun and glee, and I miss it sorely.
My Souvenir: No question, my souvenir from The Goonies is the first shot when they come out into the underground chamber and see the pirate ship. I audibly gasped in delight when that happened (no, really, ask my husband). I was expecting them to find a treasure chest, or even a chamber of loose coins like the red herring of the wishing well. I never dreamed they’d find a whole intact pirate ship, with all the romanticism (however misplaced) that goes along with that. I was already enjoying the movie. That moment coupled with the shot at the end of the pirate ship sailing off made me love it.