Film review: The Goonies (1985), directed by Richard Donner
When you have a story by Steven Spielberg and a screenplay by Chris Columbus, you can’t really go wrong. Well, you can, but it will still rock, somehow.
The Goonies is a classic film about a group of kids whose parents are facing foreclosure on their houses. If they can’t pay vast amounts of money by tomorrow, their houses will be torn down and a golf course built in their place. The children aren’t happy about this, but what can they do? Well, they can stumble on a treasure map from 1632 that just happened to be stored in the loft of one of the houses. Maybe there really is a treasure hiding somewhere nearby, and maybe they can find it and save their homes? Adventure ensues.
Meanwhile, the Fratelli gang are running from the police, and as it happens, the opening to the tunnel where the treasure is supposedly hiding is just underneath the abandoned restaurant where the Fratellis are hiding out. Paths are crossed. Children being chased by bad guys ensues, duh.
I wish I could say I absolutely loved this film, but I really can’t. Am I too old? Or is it just that I don’t find the film’s stereotyping all that amusing? Sure, I think Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) and her two boys (Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano) are fun baddies, but the chained-up and hideously disfigured brother Sloth (John Matuszak) in the basement? That’s taking the mickey out of someone with a severe disability, especially considering the mental age he’s in as well. It’s fun for the kids, perhaps, but what sort of an example does it set for them? If it wasn’t for the fact that he ends up befriending the kids and acts in their favour does mitigate some of the distaste, because at least that means they acknowledge that he’s not evil just because he’s disfigured.
As for the kids themselves, it’s endearing to see a young Sean Astin (Sam in Lord of the Rings), Corey Feldman is a 1980s kids/teen movie staple (why no Molly Ringwald here, eh?) and his “translations” to the Mexican maid are hilarious, even though I do wonder how he managed to know those kind of words in Spanish at that age. Josh Brolin is Astin’s jock brother, Kerri Green the damsel in distress cheerleader he has the hots for, nothing much to say there. I enjoyed Martha Plimpton as Green’s sensible friend, even though I suppose she was meant to be “the ugly one” while her friend was supposed to be “the pretty one”. Please. I preferred Plimpton’s character by a mile.
The smart Asian prodigy stereotype (Jonathan Ke Quan or Ke Huy Quan) with all his inventions and dreams of being James Bond were amusing, but at the end of the day, doesn’t do anything to help the perception of Asian kids being the brightest of the bunch. Which, in a way, isn’t bad as stereotypes go, but it can be harmful to those who keep getting pushed by their parents even when they’re not interested in that kind of career. Especially not when his intelligence is made fun of.
However, the biggest problem of all is with Chunk (Jeff Cohen), or “the fat kid”. Having him do “the Truffle Shuffle” against his will is just degrading. Putting it another way, is he the inspiration behind South Park‘s Eric Cartman, by any chance? He’s a loud, obnoxious, whiny, and really pretty stupid boy-who-cried-wolf, but without the F words. To portray him as the clumsy fat kid obsessed with food and who can “smell” ice cream in a walk-in freezer when the door’s shut is fatphobic, quite frankly. And my *ist radar doesn’t normally go off at the drop of a hat either. Not impressed.
Considering how loud and annoying Chunk was as a character, there were points where I really wished the Fratellis would’ve put him out of his misery. Except that would be too dark for a kid’s movie, which is already full of pirate booty booby traps (oh boy was that joke over-used) that have killed people, mortgage foreclosures, dead bodies in freezers and criminals on the run …
It’s a good enough adventure film for a younger audience (not too young, though – there are corpses strewn about the place, after all) but it’s like a pantomime, you could say. Not too intellectually challenging, but y’know, at least you won’t be bored.
2.9 out of 5 pirate ships suddenly breaking free from a cavern after nearly 400 years. (Because that made loads of sense, right? Why not go “it’s loaded full of treasure, let’s go!!” and even though it was a bag full of gems, are they really worth enough to save that many houses from foreclosure? Seriously?)