The Boonies is a high school mystery film starring tarring Cody Ko, Andi Matichak (Halloween), Calum Worthy (The Act) and J.J. Nolan (You, The Mindy Project). The premise is that a member of the group, Doug, recently died in a horrific car explosion at school. As a parting gift to five former friends, he sends them a message telling them of a fortune of money he hid on the school grounds. To motivate them, he also happens to tell the rest of the school. As a result, two separate groups end up in the mix as well – the Cheerleaders who are after the money, and the Outsiders, the leader of which is the ex of one of the Boonies, along with the criminals who the money belonged to originally.
The result is a mash up of The Goonies meets The Breakfast Club, but unfortunately this particular film fails to live up to its predecessors. The main cast comes off as one dimensional (you have the nerdy one, the bitchy one, the goth, the drunken idiot, and the manipulator), to the point where I was a little sad this wasn’t a horror movie. Part of the premise is that in order to survive the night, each of the main characters has to reveal a secret to the other members of the group in order to proceed.
For the most part, the movie harkens back more to the raunchy teen comedies of the ‘80s, but even then it comes off more tame than it might otherwise seem. Unlike The Breakfast Club, there’s no great revelation about any of the characters, no moment of self-realization. Even when the characters do acknowledge how they act, it is a fleeting moment of self-realization that gets remarked but doesn’t result in any of the characters actually changing. The big reveal for one of the characters is that he’s slept with almost all of the female characters in the film. It’s played for laughs, even if there is a meta moment where he realizes why he does that and the effect its had on his friendships. By the end of the film, however, nothing has changed.
The worst part, for me, is that I ended up not caring what happened to the characters. There wasn’t a strong sense that I wanted them to succeed (one of the main characters’ father is referenced as already having a lot of money) and there isn’t a sense that their lives are in any way in bad shape. Compare to the Goonies who are being forced apart due to real estate being bought up, or again, The Breakfast Club, each of which is damaged in some fundamental way that makes the audience care about what happens to them.
Then again, maybe I’m hoping for too much from a simple teen mystery comedy. The actors do try their best with the script that’s given them, but I’d have preferred a little more depth to the jokes and the relationships than what was ultimately served up. It’s entirely possible that I’m not the target audience for this film, and I’m hoping for too much out of it. Then again, if you are going to directly reference The Goonies at the start of you film, expect comparisons to be made.
The Boonies will be available November 11th on Amazon, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, FANDANGO.