The Goonies (1985)
I have to confess I’d never seen The Goonies in its entirety prior to watching this 30th Anniversary Blu-ray. Originally released in UK cinemas in November 1985, I would have been 17 years old, and you wouldn’t have caught me dead watching a ‘PG’ rated ‘kids’ film back then. Besides, I’d watched co-star Corey Feldman (‘Mouth’) defeat Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter the year before, not to mention Joe Dante’s Gremlins, and just a month prior to The Goonies I’d seen him again in the opening sequence from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. So no, I didn’t see it then, and somehow I’d managed to avoid it until now. But better late than never – right?
This nearly all boys-own romp (with Martha Plimpton and Kerry Green) for buried treasure in booby trap laden caves boasted a ridiculous embarrassment of riches behind the camera as well as those aboard old One-Eye Willie’s pirate ship the ‘Inferno’. Based on a story by Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus, who had penned Gremlins prior to this sea shanty gig, delivered a jaunty screenplay for Richard (The Omen, Superman) Donner to try his best to marshal his precocious live-wire cast to. In addition to an extraordinary line-up of young talent, Donner also had on board veteran stalwart character actress Anne Ramsey as the Ma Baker-like ‘Mama Fratelli’ along with her bumbling sons played by opera singing gangster Robert Davi and toupeed Joe Pantoliano.
The story has a pleasantly old-fashioned feel to it (and I don’t just mean the 80s nostalgia it inevitably invokes). Despite its liberal sprinkling of PG-rated swear words and references, it’s essentially a noisy throwback to the swashbuckling Errol Flynn pirate adventures of old, encrusted with in-jokes and references to keep an audience on its toes. It stands the test of time because when you watch it today, you just know that no major studio would commission such talent and invest such resources into making this kind of film anymore. Now it’s seemingly all comic-book super-heroes, that is until December, when the impending Star Wars tsunami crashes upon the box-office and threatens to drown it for the foreseeable future.
But I can safely say none of those franchises will be able to boast anything as comparatively memorable as the ‘truffle-shuffle’, performed by Jeff Cohen’s jell-belly character ‘Chunk’. Nor for that matter, deformed wobbly-eared ‘Sloth’ (played under layers of latex and animatronics by the late John Matuszak) and his affectionately iconic cry: “Hey you guys!”
There’s an inevitable Indiana Jones-like vibe in some of the underground sequences given not only the story’s originator, but also the presence of Temple of Doom ‘Short Round’ Jonathan Ke Quan (this time playing a ‘James Bond’ gadget creator called ‘Data’). Interestingly, Columbus’ script later reveals Data’s father as also being an inventor, echoing the Randall Peltzer character from his previous Gremlins screenplay. (There’s also a direct reference to Gremlins when Chunk calls the police).
It’s a shame that the Burman Studios’ octopus creation sequence was cut from the film’s finale. Regardless of whether it would have worked on screen (you can judge for yourself as it’s one of the deleted scenes on the disc) there’s definitely something underwhelming and lacklustre about the ending – although it does admittedly boast a seriously impressive physical pirate ship set.
But overall director Donner manages to deliver an infectious frenetic tale of skulduggery and truffle-shuffling which can more than hold its own against today’s post-converted 3D cash-cows.