Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Goonies

With my rose-tinted spectacles firmly jammed onto the bridge of my nose, I’ve written articles about classic children’s fantasy films such as Labyrinth and The Princess Bride recently. So it seems only fitting that I should complete a hat-trick of such blogs by volleying The Goonies into the top corner from approximately 32.6 yards.

Like any child of the eighties (pedants among you will point out that I was actually born at the very fag-end of the seventies) I have a special place in my heart for The Goonies. Although less fantastical than the films I mentioned previously, it perhaps contains even greater characters and more spectacular set pieces. And as a child longing for such adventures it seemed all the more likely that I’d find a pirate galleon in Bridlington harbour than be whisked off to a funky maze by David Bowie.

With a local developer about to tear down their house in Astoria, brothers Mikey (a youthful Sean Astin) and Brand (Josh Brolin) are resigned to their fate. But when they and their goofball friends discover a treasure map in the attic it dawns on them that perhaps there might be a way to rescue their home after all – provided local crime family the Fratellis don’t beat them to the ‘rich stuff’.

What follows is a caper through spooky houses, subterranean tunnels and numerous booby traps until a climactic showdown with Ma Fratelli and her boys on a pirate ship. Like Indiana Jones for kids. Some of the dialogue is as cheesy as anything ever committed to celluloid but there are enough minor swears (17 uses of ‘shit’) and innuendoes about One Eyed Willies to ensure the script maintains adult interest.

Corey Feldman as Mouth provides plenty of humour too, not least as he translates domestic instructions for a Spanish housekeeper into drug and death related scare stories. He’s overshadowed, however, but arch bullshitter Chunk (Jeff Cohen), a child who has met Michael Jackson and once caused an entire cinema to vomit over themselves and their friends. He’s also the creator of the hilarious truffle shuffle – and thereby the inspiration for online t-shirt emporium

Perhaps even more ubiquitous than the aforementioned fat-boy wriggling is The Goonies’ most famous quote: “Hey you guys!”. Uttered by the immortal Sloth (John Matuszak). This famous greeting can still be heard in school playgrounds (or at least it can in the school I work at) and deservedly so. Sloth is a classic character – a gentle giant, he was deformed following a childhood accident and rapidly becomes the hero of the film – not least for his heart-warming relationship with Chunk and his Superman t-shirt.

Of course, the inventive booby traps laid by One Eyed Willy in defence of his treasure are inventive and perilous – but not nearly as dangerous as the bungling buffoons hot on the gang’s trail. Led by the imposingly masculine Ma Fratelli (Ann Ramsey), the criminals’ ruthlessness is tempered only by their incompetence. Watching them crush their testicles on an oil-covered waste pipe is an enjoyably cathartic experience.

There’s nothing original about The Goonies – and it times it’s a little too saccharine sweet – but in an age of cynicism that’s one of its charms. For me it recalls a golden age of playing outside, gangs pedalling their pushbikes around town whilst seeking adventure and building dens. Perhaps the world is still like that – but I’m not sure. Not all of my friends at the time were as cool as the Goonies – but we thought we were. And for reminding of that embryonic time in my life I will always be grateful – and will always return to – Richard Donner’s enjoyably flawed masterpiece.

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