Week 39 – Oregon
The Goonies (1985), an Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures production, directed by Richard Donner, written by Steven Spielberg (story) and Chris Columbus (screenplay), with Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, John Pantoliano and Anne Ramsey, cinematography by Nick McLean, original music by Dave Grusin
“What do you mean you’ve never seen The Goonies? You can’t be serious. It’s The Goonies! How old are you? 32? So you were born in – lemme think – 1978? That means in 1985 you were … 1-2-3-4-5-6 … 7? 8 years old? You must have at least seen it on video at some point. No? Never? Oh … you were kidding. Heheh. Of course you were. Everyone’s seen The Goonies.”
Of course I’m kidding. Of course I’ve seen The Goonies. I love The Goonies. I grew up in the 1980s and – like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Labyrinth – watching The Goonies was a rite of passage. If you were a kid in the 1980s and The Goonies wasn’t an intricate part of your childhood, you were either in a coma or your parents didn’t care about you. I’m not joking. Call them up right now and ask them why they didn’t let you see The Goonies. Then blame them for why you’ve been unable to maintain a serious relationship throughout your adult years or why you walk around day to day without that empty feeling in your soul. Because that’s exactly the effect not seeing The Goonies as a kid can have on a person.
Me? I didn’t just watch The Goonies. I lived The Goonies. Seriously. Myself and about half dozen other neighborhood kids used to pretend we were the different characters from the movie, reenact scenes from the film out in the backyard and even create our own brand-new Goonie adventures. Since a rumored sequel to the film never became a reality (and, no, the Nintendo game didn’t count) we took it upon ourselves to carry on the Goonie legacy.
But maybe you’ve really never seen The Goonies, in which case I feel sorry for you. The good news for you is, it’s never too late. Furthermore, once you’re a Goonie, you’re always a Goonie.
Here’s a preview of what to expect for those of you who have never seen The Goonies. For those of you who have, consider this a tribute to one of the greatest adventure films of all time.
The Goonies is a fantasy-adventure film set in Astoria, Oregon. The plot: A group of scrappy kids who call themselves The Goonies stumble upon an old treasure map and decide to go on a quest to retrieve “rich stuff.” With the “rich stuff” they hope to prevent the parents of the apparent leader of their circle of friends – Michael “Mikey” Walsh – from selling their home and moving to Detroit. Mikey, along with fellow Goonies — Mouth, Data, and Chunk — manage to elude Mikey’s older brother and babysitter Brandon, who dismisses the map and the legend behind it as fiction. At a run-down and apparently empty diner where the four friends believe the treasure is hidden, Mikey and the other Goonies run into a family of thugs who have just escaped from prison. At first Ma, Jake, and Francis Fratelli are content to just scare off the kids so that they can carry on their business — whatever criminal enterprise that may be. However, after learning about the Goonies’ quest, the Fratellis decide to try and claim the booty for themselves. Incidentally, the treasure once belonged to a pirate named One-Eyed Willy, who has devised numerous traps and obstacles to prevent anyone from pillaging his fortune.
The Goonies is directed by Richard Donner, director of hit movies including The Omen (1976), Superman: The Movie (1978), and the Lethal Weapon series, as well as duds like Radio Flyer (1992) and Maverick (1994). The Goonies was Donner’s second attempt at a family movie after 1982’s Richard Pryor bomb, The Toy. The Toy, according to the Rotten Tomatoes web show, was voted the most inappropriate kids movie of all time, mostly due to its racially-insensitive premise – Pryor, a black man, is hired by a rich white guy as a “toy” for his kid. Yeah. The kid, interestingly enough, is played by Scott Schwartz, aka Flick from A Christmas Story, aka the kid who got his tongue stuck to a flag pole. Schwartz, interestingly enough, briefly had a career as a heterosexual male porn star when he got older – so, basically, his tongue has seen a lot of action.
The Goonies, unlike The Toy, was a hit (It was the second-highest grossing movie of 1985), although it’s clear even in The Goonies that Donner should maybe stick to adult fare. It’s not racist … much, save the stereotypical portrayal of the Walsh’s housekeeper, Rosalita and the somewhat cruel pranks that Mouth plays on her which serve as part of the film’s comic relief. It’s just that the humor in The Goonies in general can be pretty crude for a kid’s movie. The best example is a lengthy joke revolving around a ceramic replica of Michelangelo’s David statue that gets knocked over, causing its penis to break off (and subsequently get glued upside down, which leads to Mouth remarking that if God had made us that way, “We’d be pissing in our faces”). I know … it’s hilarious, just kind of out of place. In addition, The Goonies can be pretty fucking scary – dead bodies, lethal traps, one-eyed pirate skeletons.
I’m getting off-topic, but that’s because there’s not a whole lot more to say about Donner. Let’s face it, The Goonies is no huge feat of directorial prowess. What makes The Goonies great is a whole mish-mash of other stuff, beginning with its incredible cast.
The Good Guys – The Goonies
Michael “Mikey” Walsh played by Sean Astin – The career of Sean Astin is full of memorable characters: Rudy, Samwise Gamgee, Encino Man‘s Dave. Before all others there was Mikey. Mikey’s the leader of the Goonies, even if brother Brandon is the older of the two. What makes Mikey the leader? One, his parents’ house is the unofficial Goonie hangout spot. Two, he discovers the map to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure. Three, he encourages his fellow Goonies to go searching for it. If it weren’t for Mikey, there’d be no movie. If there’s any doubt that Mikey’s the leader of the group, just look to any one of the motivating speeches he gives his fellow Goonies throughout the film. Mikey’s there to remind us that Goonies “never say die” and, indeed, when Mikey’s leading the pack, everyone remains committed to the task at hand — finding the “rich stuff.”
Clark “Mouth” Deverieux played by Corey Feldman – At a time when he could do no wrong, The Goonies is vintage Feldman. Mouth is not the leader of the group. You can probably make the argument that he’s second in command, but no matter what you think, he certainly thinks he’s the leader. Mouth gets his nickname because of his inability to shut up. The constant joker, this personality trait gets him into trouble more often than it gets him out of trouble. Okay … it never gets him out of trouble. But he’s funny, so he’s the kind of guy you want to have around. Damn the repercussions.
Richard “Data” Wang played by Jonathan Ke Quan – Ke Quan had the market cornered on cute Asian kids in the early 1980s, between his role here and as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He’s a master of zany inventions like the “pinchers of power” and the “slick shoes” and, like in Temple of Doom, is a virtual quote machine. All together now: “50 dollar bill! 50 dollar bill!”
Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen played by Jeff Cohen – Fat. Foul-mouthed. The group’s whipping boy, but one who totally asks for the abuse he endures. This, after all, is the kid who claimed that Michael Jackson knocked on the door to his parents’ house and asked to use the bathroom. Fun fact: The actor who played Chunk has retired from acting and is now an entertainment lawyer. The Hawaiian shirt. The Jewfro. Chunk is a character that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled, for better or worse.
The Good Guys – The Others
Good things come in groups of four: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Four Horseman (not “of the Apocalypse,” but Ric, Arn, Ole and Tully). I consider Mikey, Mouth, Data, and Chunk to be “The Goonies.” However, there are others in the film aligned with the core group that could also be considered Goonies — Goonie associates?
There are the girls, Andrea “Andy” Charmichael, played by Kerri Green and Stephanie “Stef” Steinbrenner, played by Martha Plimpton. Of the two, Andy’s the pretty sweet one. Stef is the nerdy feisty one. Green is no stranger to teen flicks. One of her first roles was in Lucas with her Goonies co-star, Feldman – as well as 50 Movies For 50 States fav, Winona Ryder. Green shows up on TV and in movies from time-to-time. Plimpton maintained the significant career post-Goonies, in movies like I Shot Andy Warhol and John Waters’ Pecker. Plimpton is the daughter of 50 Movies For 50 States fav David Carradine. Today, Plimpton … I have no idea. What ever happened to Martha Plimpton? Although seriously outnumbered by the dudes, Andy and Stef bring at least a little gender equality to the Goonie squad as well as some minor boy-girl chemistry/drama to the story.
Last but not least is Brandon “Brand” Walsh, big brother to Mikey, played by a young Josh Brolin of recent Coen Brothers fame. Although at first an obstacle to Mikey, Mouth, Data, and Chunk’s quest for the “rich stuff,” along with Andy and Stef, Brand eventually finds himself wrapped up in the mission once stumbling on Willy’s traps and realizing there might actually be some truth to the legend. Brand is a bit of a grouch at times. No doubt he’s bitter from constantly having to take care of his little brother Mikey and Mikey’s annoying friends. Deep down, however, he’s a good brother.
Jake (Robert Davi), Francis (Joe Pantoliano), and Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey). Despite their bumbling, there’s no doubt in the mind of anyone watching the movie that they’re dangerous. Like when they threaten to cut out Mouth’s tongue or threaten to stick Chunk’s hand in a blender. Anne Ramsey is scary as hell and reminded me of my 2nd-grade teacher. I was horrified to learn while researching for this article that she had to have part of her tongue and jaw removed because of mouth cancer, after which she went on to play an Oscar-nominated role as “Mama” in Throw Mama from the Train. She died about six months after receiving that nomination and was probably reincarnated as a pit bull.
Last but not least, the real star of The Goonies…
Well, who else could I be talking about.
There’s a few things to know about Sloth. First, he likes Baby Ruth candy bars. Second, he likes Rocky Road ice cream. Third, he likes Chunk.
But who is this man: Sloth? We all know he’s the hulking six-and-a-half-foot-tall deformed, retarded son of Mama Fratelli. But who is he really? On the inside? Could he be … a Goonie? When we meet Sloth, he’s chained up in front of a television – put there by his own family, who have no idea what to do with the giant mutant. Sloth and Chunk, who is kidnapped by the Fratellis, bond over a shared love of food and Chunk teaches him about self-respect, in the hope that he no longer has to put up with his family’s mistreatment. Because if any person knows about self-respect, it’s the fat kid whose “friends” force him to do the “Truffle Shuffle,” a dance which involves lifting your shirt, jumping up and down, and letting your belly jiggle like Jabba the Hutt having an epileptic fit.
Between his hideous makeup and his bellowing, Sloth is probably one of the most beloved characters from The Goonies. Who hasn’t wanted to shout, “Hey, you guuuuuuys!” at some point in their life. Who hasn’t shouted “Hey, you guuuuuuuys!” at some point in their life, or at least “Baby Ruth?!” or “Rocky road?!?”
The actor underneath the makeup, which reportedly took about five hours to put on, was John Matuszak, a former defensive end for the Oakland Raiders. Matuszak sadly died in 1989 at the age of 38 of heart failure, but before passing away he was able to play the role of a lifetime. For that, we are eternally grateful.
See what I mean? There’s not a bad character in that bunch. But let’s talk about what else makes The Goonies great.
There’s the music. I’m not just talking about Cindy Lauper’s “(The Goonies Are) Good Enough,” a catchy and memorable tune in and of itself, or any of the other pop songs which appear in the film (REO Speedwagon and The Bangles are among some of the other bands who contributed to the soundtrack). I’m talking about the original score by composer Dave Grusin (Tootsie, the theme to the television show St. Elsewhere). The Goonies score remains one of Grusin’s crowning achievements. If movie scores served as the soundtrack to my childhood, Grusin would be as important a figure to me as John Williams and Danny Elfman. What would The Goonies be without the frantic fully-orchestrated chase theme that plays over the opening credits and the Fratellis’ jailbreak? Or the minimalistic synthesizer-based theme which can be heard playing several times, including when One-Eyed Willy’s map is found in the Walsh’s attic as well as the discovery of the wishing well — a series of descending minor arpeggios which seem to signify both a moment of discovery and an undercurrent of mystery? How about Sloth’s theme, which harkens back to the swashbucklers of the 1940s and 1950s? The Goonies score was so good, there was a period of time where it would constantly be popping up in various trailers for totally random films — a lot like the theme to Willow or the theme from Edward Scissorhands also did.
There’s the setting of Astoria, Oregon, with its towering pine trees, rocky coasts and blustering wind. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Just look at this helicopter shot.
Most importantly, there’s the story and the pacing. The Goonies wastes no time being boring. It opens with a jailbreak and totally awesome car chase, before introducing us to the characters. Then, after Mikey, Mouth, Data, and Chunk escape from Brand, the movie takes off and barely slows down. Once the group reaches the catacombs which eventually take them to One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship and the “rich stuff,” we’re taken through a truly amazing assortment of trap set pieces that rival anything done in the first two Indiana Jones movies. My favorite is the pipe organ which, if you play the correct tune, will open up a secret passage. If you play the incorrect tune, however, the floor opens up into a pit of spikes. Then there’s Willy’s pirate ship. According to the film commentary, the cast was prevented from seeing the immense pirate ship set until it was time to film the scene where the characters discover it, in order to get an authentic reaction of surprise and awe.
The trick works well. But it doesn’t take any tricks to get an authentic reaction of surprise and awe from someone watching The Goonies. What more can I say? It’s The Goonies. If you’ve never seen it and I haven’t sold you on it at this point, there’s no hope for you. And if you have seen it and don’t want to watch it right now, right away, there’s no hope for you either. My recommendation is watching it with the DVD’s video commentary, which includes a sit-down discussion with the entire cast and director Richard Donner. If anything, it gives you a chance to see how the actors and actresses have aged. (Kerri Green is still cute, Chunk is skinny, and Corey Feldman is … Corey Feldman.)
Other movies filmed in Oregon: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Wendy and Lucy, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Elephant, Free Willy
Next week: …Boys II Men still keepin’ up the beat.