This is a relic from that very frightening period when it appeared that Steven Spielberg was simply going to take over the world of film. If he couldn’t make the movie himself, he would produce it or executive produce it and, in the bargain, steamroll the nominal director — be it Tobe Hooper or Barry Levinson or Richard Donner — into the role of ersatz Spielbergs. This process churned out an assembly-line world of precocious kids, overproduction, big special effects and an almost pathological obsession with the joys of suburbia.
Of course, in Donner’s case, this wasn’t much of a tragedy. The Goonies may be Spielbergized in the extreme, but it’s not especially worse than his Superman or The Omen, and it’s considerably less obnoxious than The Toy. Yet, there aren’t too many people who are likely to argue the merits of The Goonies on any serious level.
This is, however, a movie that seems to be well-liked by Generation Xers, simply as part of their childhood. And having just rewatched it, I’d say that it’s a clear case of you had to be there — and be between the ages of 6 and 16 — to understand its appeal. Yes, the movie’s fairly competently assembled, but it’s also a case of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink and then going back for more.
There’s not one gag that doesn’t beat you over the head, not one effects sequence that doesn’t try to be the biggest such sequence ever, and not one performer who doesn’t try to scream his or her dialogue louder than everyone else. And it’s all parceled up in one of those gooey “money doesn’t buy happiness” endings so beloved by multimillionaire producers.
The movie steals with wild abandon from all manner of sources, including the Little Rascals’ short Mama’s Little Pirate, Errol Flynn movies, Larry Cohen’s exploitation schlock (one character looks for all the world like one of the monster babies from his It’s Alive franchise), Bob Hope classics (The Ghost Breakers) and Spielberg’s own movies. And all of these influences are applied with the finesse of someone slopping hogs.
That said, The Goonies is a fascinating repository of ’80s pop culture and is almost mesmerizing in its nonstop overkill. On that level alone, it’s worth a look (plus, it’ll make the state of movies today look better). And if you actually were there at the right age in 1985, it’ll probably still qualify as a blast from your past.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke
[The Goonies will be shown by Walk-In Theatre at dusk on Friday, June 10, in the parking lot behind the Bledsoe Building in West Asheville. The film is sponsored by Orbit DVD and the merchants of the Bledsoe Building. Admission is free — and as always, be sure to leave pets and alcohol at home.]