Review: ‘The Goonies’ (1985) | Pop Culture Crossing

            The Goonies is a 1985 adventure film with a lot of heart, great performances, and impressive technicality. Some may write it off as being a children’s movie, but that is not the case. The film’s undertones mesh well with the adventure and distinct characters, thus providing viewers with an entertaining experience.

            The story centers on two brothers, Mikey and Brand, and Mikey’s group of friends. The characters live in a nice seaside community, but when Mikey and Brand’s parents are faced with foreclosure, it looks as though their idyllic lifestyle will soon come to an end. Fortunately, Mikey makes a discovery that inspires him and the group, known as the “Goonies,” to go on a treasure hunt to save the house. The situation is compounded when known criminals are on the loose and hiding in the area.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

            The pacing in the first act is pretty rough. Some characters, namely Mouth and Chunk, are very insufferable. During this portion, viewers, like myself, may think that the film is puerile and intended solely for younger audiences. I do encourage you to watch the film in its entirety as the second and third acts greatly improve upon the first. Additionally, Chunk and Mouth become more likable as the film progresses.

            When Mikey becomes intrigued by a treasure map, the captivation and push he has for pursuing the potential treasure is relatable, as is his strong-willed personality and desire to get to learn more about the pirate legend. Luckily, this significantly helps propel the pace and deploy the hooks of the narrative’s mystery and adventure.

            The interactions, both positive and negative, amongst the characters is very realistic. From the kids’ ganging up on Mikey to them going into the attic when they are told they should not to other members in the group vying for leadership positions and seeing who can be the most domineering are all examples taken from real life. Though The Goonies takes these elements to the extreme with the dearth of parental supervision and presence, the core concepts are reminiscent of elementary and middle school friends and group dynamics.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

            Tonally, The Goonies is best defined as being a tale in which innocence meets adventure. This is not to say it is purely fantastical or whimsical. The two serious undertones permeating the narrative are the looming threat of foreclosure and the tangible danger presented with the jail break of the Fratellis. It also illustrates that others should not be judged. These facets help broaden the movie’s appeal and makes it palatable and important for older audiences.

            The performances, from principals to supporting cast, are quite strong, especially considering the amount of younger actors in the film. Sean Astin’s Mikey, Josh Brolin’s Brand, Jeff Cohen’s Chunk, and Corey Feldman’s Mouth are the lead characters. Their performances are great and it is nice that they, and the supporting cast, play characters with distinct personalities. This helps make the characters and the movie as a whole seem refreshing and interesting.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

            Mikey’s devotion to the treasure hunt is remarkable and his historical reverence is commendable. Some critiques people have against Indiana Jones and the Uncharted video game series are that the main characters arrive in exotic, historical environs only to completely destroy them, showing little reverence for the history. Sometimes events occur that make the damage inevitable, but the characters, often archaeologists and historians, habitually treat the areas with wanton disregard. Thankfully, this criticism cannot be levied against The Goonies, allowing the film to establish its own identity.

            Kerri Green’s Andy, Martha Plimpton’s Stef, and Jonathan Ke Quan’s Data are great characters who round out the group’s roster. Once the adventure begins, the entire group becomes fun to watch.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

            John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, and Anne Ramsey also provide strong performances for their respective characters as the Fratelli criminals. The fugitives are good antagonists and it is nice to see that they pose a serious threat to the Goonies. The fact that they are not benign criminals heightens the stakes for Mikey, Brand, and their friends.

            One key criticism is that there are some scenes in the film where the characters are simply way too loud. In some instances, it did not fit the scenes, particularly when the adversaries are near and the characters are frequently yelling. Perhaps it corresponds to the characters being kids and not knowing they should be quite during such times. Regardless of the intention, it should have been fixed either while shooting or in post-production.

            It is also a bit odd that Mikey and Brand’s mom does not learn that the boys had run from the house. Admittedly, the sequence is ambiguous and does tie into the mom being preoccupied and not paying close attention to the kids. Nevertheless, it is strange and worth mentioning, despite being a minor critique.

            The cinematography is strong. There is a great mix of compositions and perspectives that keep the look of the film feeling fresh. The sequence with the pipes and the characters appearing could have easily been blandly shot, but it is surprisingly varied and impressive. Other compositions throughout the movie capture the lure of the adventure and the emotions the characters’ experiences throughout their quest. It is worth noting that the main musical theme’s orchestral flare is also successful at conveying the spirit of exploration.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

            The Goonies’ production design is very well-realized. Given the story, the set pieces fit perfectly into place and will keep the audience hooked and entertained. It is also appreciated that the Goonies do have times during their expedition that prove to be a true struggle and depict the legitimate perils of their journey. It is a relief that they do not seamlessly overcome every obstacle they encounter. This is evidence of excellence in the performances and writing.

            Richard Donner’s direction of The Goonies is excellent. The film expertly, creatively, and unexpectedly blends the story, intrigue, characters and acting, and technical elements for a final product that ranks up with the great adventure and treasure hunt films.

            The Goonies is a terrific adventure film that should not be missed. Even if you have already seen this film, it is wort a revisit. For those who saw the film as kids, you will no doubt appreciate what the movie has to offer older viewers. If you are preparing for your first screening of The Goonies, then you are in for a fun-filled, memorable experience.

Back Matter:[1]

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Production: Warner Bros.; Amblin Entertainment

Director: Richard Donner

Producer: Richard Donner; Harvey Bernhard

Screenwriter: Steven Spielberg (story); Chris Columbus (screenplay)

Director of Photography: Nick McLean

Editor: Michael Kahn; Steven Spielberg

Art Direction: Rich Carter

Set Decoration: Linida DeScenna

Music: Dave Grusin

Budget: ca. $19,000,000

Release Date: June 7, 1985 (USA)

Cinematographic Process: Panavision

Laboratory: Technicolor

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; 2.20:1 (70 mm prints)

Copyright Holder: Warner Bros. Inc.

Cast: Sean Astin; Josh Brolin; Jeff Cohen; Corey Feldman; Kerri Green; Martha Plimpton; Jonathan Ke Quan; John Matuszak; Robert Davi; Joe Pantoliano; Anne Ramsey; Lupe Ontiveros; Mary Ellen Trainor; Curt Hanson; Keith Walker; Steve Antin; Paul Tuerpe

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Rating: PG; Descriptors: N/A[2]

Running Time: 1 hours and 54 minutes (114 mins.)