by Stephen Milek
I wrote this a while ago for a previous blog but figured since it's the 30th Anniversary of it's release I would repost it here.
For those not familiar with the story I will give a quick recap. The Goonies is a group of kids Mikey, Mouth, Data, and Chunk living in Astoria, Oregon. This is their last weekend in town because their houses are being torn down to build a country club. While looking through stuff in Mikey’s attic they come across a treasure map. Mikey remembers an old story his dad once told him about a pirate One Eyed Willy. The story said that his treasure was supposedly hidden somewhere in town. They decide to follow the map to see if they can find the treasure and save their houses. The end up being joined by Mikey's older brother Brand and his two friends Stef and Andy. They also run across a criminal family the Fratelli's. They end up navigating a maze of caves and booby traps while trying to stay one step ahead of the Fratelli’s.
I have to say the movie still holds up. Maybe it is just because it is such a part of my childhood but I think it is more than that. The movie is just really well done. I think it starts with the screenplay by Chris Columbus and Richard Donner’s direction.
The first thing they do perfectly is introduce us to the characters. I have been wanting to write a screenplay and I started studying the beginnings of movies. The beginning of this movie is a lesson on how to introduce a cast of characters with very little dialogue. As the Fratelli’s are being chased through town by the cops we get to see each character in their element. We learn that the Fratelli's bumbling criminals, Chunk is a klutz, Data is a crazy inventor, Andy is the cheerleader, and Stef is the tomboy (although I have never figured out what she is doing with her head in the barrel of water). After the credits we meet the leader Mikey and his brother Brand and when everyone comes over to his house we learn a little bit more about each character.
Now maybe I am giving Columbus too much credit here since the characters play into stereotypes and we don’t really need any big introduction just some reinforcing of what we already assume. Does it matter that the klutz is fat or the brainiac is Asian? For me the story works the way it is. Everyone in the audience can easily identify with one of the characters or knows someone like that. It automatically gets you invested in the story. Every character is allowed to shine at one point or another and they even develop a little love story.
The movie was also perfectly cast. Each actor did an amazing job. It is one of those movies where it feels like the parts were written specifically for those actors. You really feel like you know them and you care for them. Some of them even went on to have good careers. Two of them went on to star in a movie that would eventually win Best Picture. Sean Astin was in Lord of the Rings and Josh Brolin was in No Country for Old Men. Joe Pantoliano was in two other of my favorite movies Memento and The Matrix. Corey Feldman seemed to star in every movie in the 80’s, and Martha Plimpton is now the star of the sitcom Raising Hope.
The story and plot are very formulaic but once their adventure begins it is a lot of fun. There are so many memorable scenes and funny stuff that I still find myself laughing at. Especially the scene when the Fratelli’s are interviewing Chunk. The wishing well scene is the most emotional and the heart of the movie. It is beautifully shot and Mikey's speech is still inspiring. And how can you not love the water slide scene. I always thought they should build a slide like that at a water park.
You pretty much know how the movie will end. It is a kids movie after all and the kids are going to save the day. But even for the simplicity of the plot and stereotypical characters the movie works. You feel like you go on the adventure with them and are always rooting for them.
Overall: This is still one of my favorite movies and this viewing proved to me that it holds up over time. It is a must see for everyone who had a sense of adventure as a child.