“Hey, You Guys!”
It was the summer of 1985 when my mom took me to see The Goonies, I remember standing in front of the movie theater and staring at the poster on display with a little nervousness and wonder. I was only five, and I simply had no concept about what I was about to watch. I remember this day fondly, because this was the day I fell in love with cinema, though it would take me a few more years to wrap my head around these emotions. I had seen movies before this, but the experience of seeing The Goonies simply floored my imagination, and it inspired me to want to know more about pirates, lost treasure, and all the possible adventures one could have. As I’ve gotten older, despite how many movies I’ve seen, this is one that will always remain as one of my all-time favorite films. For those 30 or older who still haven’t seen The Goonies, well, I feel bad for you; you’ve missed out on a cinematic treasure that stands among the other classic films of the 80’s like Back to the Future, ET, Gremlins, and Ghostbusters (sure, there are others I’m not listing, but I think you get the point). When Super 8 came along, then a little later Netflix put out Stranger Things, it started a small revival of the children-in-peril genre that flourished in the 80’s. Despite how good some of these nostalgic revivals have been, they still can’t capture the magic of The Goonies.
When you have a story by Steven Spielberg (Jaws and ET), then a screenplay from Chris Columbus (Gremlins), and then Richard Donner (Superman and The Omen) directing, well, you know you are going to have something special. These guys obviously went on to do amazing things in Hollywood, but even as they were getting ready to film The Goonies, their resumes were pretty impressive.
The film gets off to a fun start as we watch the Fratelli family stage a jailbreak that leads to car chase that moves throughout the town of Astoria, Oregon. Over the course of the chase we are introduced to the kids who make up “The Goonies”. Before I get into the younger cast, let me go ahead and delve into the Fratelli family. Jake (Robert Davi) and Francis (Joe Pantoliano) are brothers who are at each other’s throats during the entire film, I’d watch a movie just with these guys, because their bickering is simply that entertaining, and this was before they reached the pinnacle of their talent. Then there is Mama Fratelli, who is played by Anne Ramsey, and in this role alone she became one of my all-time favorite villains. She’s a force of nature as she takes control of every scene she’s in where she is simply the toughest mother is on screen. The casting of the Fratelli family is one of the film’s greatest strengths. I mean, they toe the line between being scary and bumbling fools so perfectly that it’s believable, and they seem like a genuine threat to a group of misfit kids.
OK, so if you’ve gotten this far and you are still wondering what is a Goonie? Well, the film doesn’t directly explain it, but basically there is a divide in the town between the rich country club elites and the rest of the town they look down upon that live in, “The Goon-Docks”. When the film opens up, it’s on the eve of when many of the Goonie residents are about to be evicted from their homes. The area is expected to be torn down to be an extension of the country club. Mikey (Sean Astin) is the unofficial leader of his group of friends that’s made up of Mouth (Corey Feldman), Chunk (Jeff Cohen), and Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) and then there is Brand (Josh Brolin), the older brother who is stuck having to babysit his brother and his friends. The adventure kicks off when they stumble across an old “treasure map” that leads to a lost treasure that once belonged to the famous pirate One-Eyed Willy. The kids get it into their heads that if they find the treasure they can save their homes. In a lot of ways it’s one of the more noble treasure hunts put to screen. Joining in on the adventure are Andy (Keri Green) and her best friend Stef (Martha Plimpton), who are involved more because of Andy’s crush on Brand.
The film is relatively straightforward, but it’s the kids who genuinely make you care, and let’s just say you’re watching the film and simply just shrug your shoulders about the story; when the film gets to “the wishing well”, this is where a lot of heart comes out that I feel when you get older you respond more to. For the kids, it’s their potential last adventure because of moving, but I feel we all can appreciate that last adventure we all at some time had with our childhood friends growing up, though many of us don’t realize it will be the last. As great as the “wishing well” scene is, I wouldn’t even call it my favorite scene, and this is a film I’ve seen enough so that I can quote the dialog along with the film. Personally my favorite moment is when the Fratellis are interrogating Chunk and he’s forced to spill his guts. But to be fair, I love just about every frame of this film; it’s perfect to me.
On the technical side the film’s strengths are the awesome visuals that would pretty much become trademarks to Richard Donner’s style. I love the rainy, overcast look down to the lighting of the sequences of the tunnels; it’s not bright and flashy with color, but that kind of changes in the film’s final act. For many people I know they are mistaken thinking this being directed by Steven Spielberg, and I understand that. Mostly it’s because the film was edited by Michael Kahn, a long – time collaborator with Spielberg. When you want to talk about the magic of Spielberg in the 80’s, Kahn was part of that and began his collaboration with him back in 1977 with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Then there is the final piece of the creative puzzle that makes this film work, the fun, whimsical score conducted by Dave Grusin. Personally I rank this score right up there with any composition from John Williams or Hans Zimmer. This score can be the ear bug I just can’t shake at times.
No matter how hard people have tried to replicate the magic of this film, nothing holds up to The Goonies. This is literally one of those times where the right talent came along at the perfect moment and created something magical. There’s a reason why after 30 years this film is beloved by so many. There has been talk for so long about doing a sequel, but at this point I feel too much time has passed, and if all the key pieces behind the scenes won’t be there for the film, I don’t want to see a sequel or reboot. Some things are just sacred and don’t need to be messed with.
The Goonies is presented in a slightly altered aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (from an original aspect ration of 2.39:1). The ultra-high-definition 2160p image gives us good reason to want to experience this film once again. As brilliant a film it is in so many aspects that has never really been true of the video presentation. The film sports a wonderfully atmospheric production design, but it’s never been a visually vibrant film. Colors are often muted, and backgrounds are dark and rather ill-defined at times. Let’s be honest; it’s an 80’s film that spends a lot of time in the sewers. But even exteriors are often muggy and dull. But the movie was shot on film and is natively 4K, so while colors might not pop and shadow definition isn’t going to show off your system or the capabilities of HDR, there is a ton of detail that does come alive. The atmospheric cinematography finally gets a chance to go from muddy to actually truly atmospheric. Earlier image presentations have been more than a little disappointing. Some colors now do flash. Chunk’s red jacket really jumps out for the first time. The opening flyover of the town now sports a ton of sharpness that just hasn’t been evident since it’s release in a (then) state-of-the-art theater. Now all of that gold and back full of gems reaches out of the murkiness and pulls you in. The film now looks like it was intended to look, and that includes the dingy sets, but now what was intended to pop really does, while the rest and finally give us the ambiance that was always intended. It was a kids’ film, and now you can look back and it’s still your film.
Unfortunately the UHD sports the same DYS-HD MA 5.1 track that has been included in the previous Blu-ray release. It does the job fine enough, but I really don’t get a sense of anything dynamic going on here. Even the score falls flat too often to be considered better than mediocre. It’s a shame the audio presentation wasn’t cleaned up a little and given just a little boost. Look. I get it. Most of the film is quite claustrophobic. Again, we’re in the sewers, and I think that comes across, but I was hoping the presentation would follow the emotional beats of the score in places like when they see the pirate ship for the first time. There’s a bit of nice ear candy, and the dialog cuts through for the most part, but this is a very average audio presentation.
Audio Commentary w/ Cast and Director Richard Donner: This is the commentary that was recorded back when they were releasing the DVD of the film. It’s fun hearing the cast all together, and they seem to still have chemistry after all these years. There are many great behind-the-scenes anecdotes. This is definitely worth listening to if you are a fan.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film.
*Basically all the bonus material is the same that was put out with the DVD, but it doesn’t look like it has been upgraded.
Commentary with Hidden Treasures: It’s the same commentary as above, but this basically has video snippets of the actual recording of the cast, and we can see them all grown up.
The Making of The Goonies Featurette: (6:49) Here we have a vintage BTS look at the making of the film from 1985. A nice little time capsule here with Steven Spielberg introducing it.
Cyndi Lauper “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” Music Video
Deleted Scenes: (6:53) There are two scenes here which easily could have been cut back into the film, and it would have made fans happy. One shows the Goonies stopping at a little shop in town where they have an altercation with the town jerk, Troy. I really like this scene, and it sets up so much, but I guess time constraints led them to chopping it. Then there is the INFAMOUS OCTOPUS SCENE (yes, it deserves all caps), the one that left fans scratching their heads at the end of the film where the characters mention their confrontation with a giant octopus, but we never actually saw it. Now we finally get to see this moment unfold. Is it worth the wait? Well, I’ll let you decide.
It’s impossible for me to say anything bad about this film. Is it bias? Maybe, but I will argue tooth and nail about how this is one of the greatest films to come out of the 80’s. If it’s been a while since you’ve revisited the film, go ahead and pop some corn and get ready to relive the adventure. If you’re a parent, I can imagine how exciting it would be to pass this film onto your kids. My only major complaint is how there are no new features for this release. This film deserves better treatment in the bonus features department. “Goonies never say die!”
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani