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Blu-ray Review: The Goonies – 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

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How could a story about a bunch of misfit youths doing their best to save their families’ homes not wind up as an incredibly touching, potentially oversweet, film?  The notion of a bunch of outcasts fighting the good fight and trying to scrape together enough cash to save the only way of life they’ve known and protect their parents is the exact sort of fodder that makes for a Hallmark Hall of Fame tearjerker.  Well, it can make for a tearjerker, it can also make for one of the best comedy-adventure flicks of the 1980s, The Goonies.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Richard Donner, The Goonies is about a group of pre/early teenage kids, one older brother, and a couple of girls thrown in for good measure trying, as mentioned, to save their homes.  The youths go after long-lost pirate treasure, running into a family of murderous bank robbers, and even making a new friend on the way.  Chris Columbus’ screenplay, based on a story by Spielberg, finds not only high adventure, but is full of laughs.  In fact, the movie only stops the laughs when it needs to ratchet up the adventure (and not always even then), and only slows the adventure when it’s time for more laughs (and again, not always even then).  By all accounts, The Goonies is unquestionably a cult favorite, but anyone who ever dreamed of adventure as a child will find a lot to love in the film.

The main character in the movie is Michael “Mikey” Walsh (Sean Astin).  Mikey is the unofficially leader of his outcast pack of friends known as the Goonies, so called because they live in an area known as the Goon Docks in Astoria, Oregon.  Sadly, the rich families in town want to destroy the Goon Docks so that they can expand their country club.  The families in the Goon Docks have been completely unable to come up with the cash they need to save their homes and are a day away from having to sign the papers handing over the property and moving out.    Mikey, along with this friends Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen (Jeff Cohen), Clark “Mouth” Devereaux (Corey Feldman), and Richard “Data” Wang (Ke Huy Quan), on their last day together end up doing a little exploring in Mikey’s house and finding an old treasure map.  The map purportedly points to the location where the pirate One-Eyed Willie buried his loot.  Despite the protestations of Mikey’s older brother, Brandon (Josh Brolin), the gang opts to go on one last Goonie adventure to find the treasure.

The Goonies really is a classic mash-up of comedy and adventure, and it’s all done through the tried and true 1980s’ haves vs. have-nots lens.  Brandon ends up coming with Mikey and his friends on the adventure as do Brandon’s would-be girlfriend Andrea “Andy” Carmichael (Kerri Green), and her friend Stephanie “Stef” Steinbrenner (Martha Plimpton).  And, as promised above, along the way the friends meet up with the dreaded Fratelli family – Jake (Robert Davi), Francis (Joe Pantoliano), Mama (Anne Ramsey), and Sloth (John Matuszak).  In order to save their families and way of life, the Goonies not only having to avoid One-Eyed Willies’ traps, but also have to stay one step ahead of the Fratellis who in turn know that not only can the kids finger them to the cops, but that the young ones are also on a treasure hunt which could make the Fratellis fabulously wealthy.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, the plot is absolutely ludicrous; it is one impossible sequence of events after the next after the next, and there is more than one plot hole readily apparent to anyone who chooses to look for them.  That being said, looking for the problems and focusing on the nonsensical aspects of The Goonies absolutely destroys the incredibly fun and funny ride.  In the end, the Goonies live a dream adventure that virtually anyone would want to have had in their youths.  They stand up to rich snobs, low-life criminals, prove that kids can make a difference, and save their homes.

Looked at from another angle, it may be best to think of The Goonies as an Indiana Jones adventure (and not Crystal Skull) taken on by a younger crowd.  The comparison works not just because Ke Huy Quan played Short Round in Temple of Doom, but because the kids are on a quest to find an ancient treasure of historical importance (like the Ark of the Covenant, the legendary Sankara Stones, or the Holy Grail) and are chased by the worst baddies they can imagine (like the Nazis or Mola Ram and his brainwashed minions).  Just as with the Jones flicks, The Goonies has the same Saturday matinee feel as well as use of set pieces, humor, and action (and Steven Spielberg).  And, just like those Indiana Jones movies, The Goonies is a film that everyone ought to see at least once.

As for this new Blu-ray edition, visually speaking, one won’t find any major complaints with the release.  The transfer is a good one, and it certainly looks better than previous DVD releases.  There is some noise in a few scenes, but by and large the detail and clarity is good and the colors rich.  The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is equally good.  There is little background noise and good use of the surrounds and subwoofers.  The music and effects, while sharp, balance well with the dialogue track (no need to sit there with the remote and continually adjust things).

The new Blu-ray 25th anniversary edition, even if it doesn’t come with a ton of on-disc special features, does come with a lot of bonus ancillary material.  As for that limited on-disc selection, there are deleted scenes, a making-of featurette from the original release, a trailer, and Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” music video.  There is also an audio commentary with Richard Donner and the main cast members.  This commentary track can be utilized simply as an audio track, or with an additional video segment that pops up in the corner from time to time.  The set also contains 10 storyboard cards, a Goonies Souvenir Magazine reproduction, and a reprint of an Empire Magazine “where are they now” article.  There is also a Goonies board game included which will no doubt please fans.  The game is cute and far more complicated (and difficult) than it initially looks. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, The Goonies is more than just good enough, The Goonies is in fact great.  As trite and clichéd as it will sound, it is a movie that your whole family (provided the youngest member is at least six or seven) can sit down and enjoy together.  Plus, now when your family finishes the movie they can all stay together a little while longer and play the board game.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.