Pulp Appeal: The Goonies

568b86df-4c6c-46cc-b5a5-c7618d4389e6_1.384063bbefbb6e9b73ebd94c66b95068Pirates, gangsters, deadly boobytraps, diatribes about the uselessness of wishing wells, Cyndi Lauper[1], jocks vs. nerds, stolen kisses, braces, Baby Ruths, and the Truffle Shuffle.

I mean, holy crap.

I’m sure some of my love of The Goonies is simply the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, but look at the list above. It’s like screenwriter Chris Columbus knocked over a shelf containing stacks of National Geographic, Smithsonian, Black Mask, The Outsiders, grocery store flyers, Rolling Stone, and the plot for Indiana Jones. Papers scattered across the floor in every direction and as Columbus attempted to pick everything up, it came out in the shape of The Goonies.

All jokes aside, the movie was directed by Richard Donner, who rose to fame with 1976’s The Omen and then struck movie gold with his Superman (starring my favorite Superman to date, Christopher Reeve) two years later. Although he was famously fired from Superman II, his fingerprints are all over the movie, considering most of it was cut together from film shot during the original. After those two successes, he moved into a string of alternating hits and flops, including The Toy[2], The Goonies, Ladyhawke[3], Lethal Weapon (and its sequels), Scrooged, and Maverick. That said, The Goonies feels more like Steven Spielberg than anyone else. If you’d told me Spielberg had actually directed it, I wouldn’t be surprised, but it doesn’t appear to be the case.

The Goonies connected to children and teenagers at a fundamental level. The opening scene is a car chase ranging all across Astoria, Oregon as the Fratelli family, a mother and her two sons—nothing more than Italian Stereotypes masquerading as characters—escape from the police after breaking the older son out of prison. Through the chase we are introduced to each of the main characters as they go about their day. We meet Mikey (Sean Astin), the asthmatic younger brother of high school senior meathead Brand (Josh Brolin); Chunk (Jeff Cohen), a chubby nerd with a penchant for telling outlandish stories about meeting Michael Jackson; Data (Jonathan Ke Huy Quan), an inventor/tech nerd whose father is an inventor of weird gadgets; and Mouth (Corey Feldman), a fast-talking polyglot who is endearing and sociopathic in equal measure. After the story gets rolling, we meet Andy, (Kerri Green) a potential love interest for Brand but currently the girlfriend of uber-rich asshole Troy; and Stef (Martha Plimpton), Andy’s best friend and potential match for Mouth.

The protagonists are all young adolescents who live in the Goon Docks, a middle class neighborhood, which has recently been sold off to an unscrupulous and filthy-rich developer who intends to demolish the Goon Docks in order to replace it with a country club. If that’s not a commentary on 1980s me-first yuppie politics, I don’t know what is.

Mikey, the main POV character, is fascinated with the history of the town and regales his friends with stories of Astoria’s founding, supposedly as the location of a hidden pirate treasure. As it turns out, the story is true, which the characters discover after accidentally breaking a frame containing a pirate map. Mouth translates the Spanish written on the map. Mikey, Mouth, Chunk, and Data hatch a plan to seek the treasure of One-Eyed Willy, in the hopes they can save the Goon Docks from foreclosure.

The rest of the Goonies tie up Brand, who is supposed to be watching them while Mrs. Walsh is out shopping, and then run out in search of the treasure. Along the way they cross paths with the Fratellis, including Mama Fratelli’s deformed son, Sloth, who forms a bond with Chunk over a shared Baby Ruth candybar. While braving the traps set by One-Eyed Willy, running from the Fratellis, and dodging snotty rich brats, the Goonies team up with Brand, Andy, and Stef who have been searching for the younger kids.

It’s not spoiling anything to say they find the treasure, the Fratellis get arrested, and the Goon Docks are saved, as it is simply to be expected in a feel-good kids’ movie from the 1980s. And while the childhood sense of awe and wonder is hard to recreate as I  approach 40, it’s hard not to smile at the reverence Mikey has when he meets One-Eyed Willy’s skeleton.

This movie really does seem like the mishmash I described above, but that’s why I love it. Pirate treasure, slick shoes, BMX bikes, video games, and candybars? It’s my 80s in a nutshell.

Are you “good enough”?

[1] The music video (above) features 1980s WWF Superstars Captain Lou Albano as Cyndi’s father and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as an oil baron buying up the land where Cyndi’s family lives. Cyndi famously hated the song for years, but has apparently relented and begun to perform it live.

[2] A godawful Richard Pryor vehicle shot around the same time of his famous stand-up special Live on the Sunset Strip.

[3] This may become its own article at a later date.

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