The Goonies: A Look Back
"I will never betray my goon dock friends
We will stick together until the whole world ends
Through heaven and hell, and nuclear war
Good pals like us, will stick like tar
In the city, or the country, or the forest, or the boonies
I am proudly declared a fellow Goony"
-The Goony Oath
I can't exactly recall the first time I saw The Goonies. I know it was after its run in theaters and I'm wanting to say that I, of all places, I saw it at school. During those rainy days with no recess, they'd pop in a movie in the library's VCR and we'd watch a bit of something, usually something pretty mediocre. The Goonies, though, was not mediocre. In fact, it was everything a child from the 1980s would want in a movie. What I didn't know is that it's everything a child inside an adult would want in a movie as well.
The one element that sets The Goonies apart from many children's and family films is the concept of teamwork and friendship. Now, you're probably thinking something along the lines "almost every movie with a bunch of kids is about teamwork and friendship." No doubt that is true, but The Goonies takes a higher road than some those clichéd and predictable movies: it's subtle. From the very beginning we feel attached to this group and get a sense they've all been friends for a very long time. They play off of each other, know each other inside and out, talk about their own history without making a big deal out of it and get into accidents and antics from the very get-go, including breaking Mikey and Brand's mother's "favorite part" of a statue. They don't take things too seriously until things turn serious, then you see the side of kids that often goes overlooked. It's a hug, or a nod, or holding up a penny and saying "This was my dream, my wish and it didn't come true" when things turn grim. It treated kids believably and didn't insult them in the film, or the kids watching it.
The Goonies does better than most films geared towards kids - it presents and represents the demographic it's appealing to. It doesn't talk down to them, it shared with them (something Spielberg's films, directed or otherwise, often do). The kids in the Goonies act like real kids, speak like them including words like "shit" and "damn," make fun of each other and horse around and overall feel like real kids. The fact much of it was improvised probably is what gives it that intangible element and authentic feel, as well as allows for better personalities to shine through. As a result, kids felt a part of the group and had the oath made it into the final cut of the film, many would have spouted it at any given chance to show their desire to be a Goony. Naturally, parents weren't fond of all that, especially the drug references, but I think kids like me were amazed there was a film that represented us so damn well.
The characters all had their own appeal to various people, it really ran the gamut. You had the leader with asthma and dreams, Mikey. The accident prone yet genius inventor (as well as fitting the minority demographic) Data. The fat and lovable Chunk. The smart-assed Mouth. The athletic and jock big brother Brand. The cute cheerleader Andy and her arty dork friend Stef who are honorary Goonies.
The film has become it's own monster. It's its own living and breathing thing now. Sean Astin, on his website, did a brief look back at The Goonies and noted how some movies, over time, take on a life of their own. The Goonies yet is nearly 25 years old as fun for kids today as it was for us. That it has. If you flip through the channels and come across it, how often you do continue flipping even if you didn't grow up loving The Goonies? It captivates you, takes you on an adventure but, more importantly, lets you relive the imagination and fun of being a child, even if for a mere 114 minutes.
A Brief History of the Goonies
-After establishing his own production company, Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg looked to start setting up projects under his label with his various colleagues. Taking a cue from his work with George Lucas and Indiana Jones, he conceptualized a story of kids and adventure and brought in his friend, Chris Columbus, to write the screenplay.
-Director Richard Donner and Spielberg put out an open casting call for the Goonies. Spielberg put in Corey Feldman and Ke Huy Quan quickly, but many were first timers in the feature business including Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and Jeff Cohen.
-Classicly trained opera singer Robert Davi was cast as Jake Fratelli, who had dabbled in acting previously and Joe Pantoliano cast as his brother, Fancis. Both share a good friendship to this day. Anne Ramsey was cast as Mama Fratelli, she would pass away a efw years later but not before being nominated for an Oscar for Throw Mama From the Train in 1987.
-Former Raiders defensive lineman, John Matuszak, played Lotney "Sloth" Fratelli and would spend hours each day having the makeup applied. "Sloth is a big old boy, who was born deformed but has a heart off gold. Even though he's mistreated by his criminal family, he sees his way clear to be a kind and good kid." says Matuszak. The two-time Super Bowl champ and number one draft pick died from heart failure in 1989 at the age of 38.
-"Every night I'm contemplating suicide." Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon) noted that directing all the kids in the film had its ups and downs and trying to keep them all in line was an extremely difficult task. He spent much of his time coaching them as actors when he wasn't shooting. "Individually, they're wonderful, they're nuts, they're the warmest, craziest little things to come into my life...but in a composite form, you get them all together, and it's mind blowing."
-Interviews in documentaries with the cast and director Richard Donner note that Steven Spielberg was highly involved in the filming, doing much of the second-unit material and even a few key scenes, some have even said he was like a co-director for it. Donner credits him for the help and his influence, although both have noted it was difficult and tense at times. Donner was the director, however it was labeled as Spielberg's "baby." Despite the tension, they were too good of friends and respected each other too much for it to hinder the production.
-The film began shooting in Autumn of 1984 in Astoria Oregon, a small town in the pacific northwest. It would shoot there for one month, then move to Burbank for four months on stage.
-Donner used many unique techniques to get as much out of his young cast as possible. The film was shot in chronological order when possible. He would not reveal much of the script to then nor any of the major sets until it was time. For example, the pirate ship was a full-size, pirate ship. The cast was banned from seeing until they shot the scene of its reveal. (Supposedly, the first take of this involved some of the cast using words that would not have been appropriate.) After wrapping in Astoria, the shoot continued at sound stages in Burbank where Donner continued his techniques. He also encouraged ad-lib and improvisation to allow for a more natural feel.
-After the final day of shooting, Spielberg flew himself and the entire cast and their families to Richard Donner's home in Hawaii to surprise him.
-The film was released in the summer of 1985 to mixed reviews and number one box-office placement thanks to fantastic marketing and big-names behind it.
Top 10 Lessons I Learned From the Goonies
10: Learning Piano Has Other Benefits
With the Fratelli's closing in, the Goonies are confronted with yet another puzzle and trap. This time they must "play the bones" to open the secret passageway. If they play the wrong chords, the floor gradually breaks away. The only Goony out of the bunch that knows piano is Andy, and she's only taken a few lessons. She recalls back, plays the right chords, and saves everyone's lives.
The Lesson: Learning piano is not just a hobby, it's also a way to simply expand your own abilities, to wear "many hats" as they say. You're at a party and the easiest way to become the life of it? Show off, of course. There will come a time when you'll need to know how to play, not just want to, so jump at the opportunity to learn some as soon as you can, especially if you plan on looking for treasure.
9: Attics are full of Cool Stuff, Notably Treasure
Before having to start packing up, Mikey's friends rush upstairs to the attic to take a look at all the cool stuff that were once displayed at the museum. Here they have everything from paintings, large electrical balls, clothes, swords and, of course, a treasure map. It's like a toy store with really old stuff.
The Lesson: Who didn't have the urge to find an attic, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbor's friends or otherwise, to start snooping around in after seeing this film? While you probably won't find a map, especially one to a pirate ship of gold, you can find some really neat stuff and probably even some things worth some money on top of it all.
8: Learning Spanish Has Other Benefits
With all his friends over at his house, Mikey's mother comes home with Rosalita, a person she hired to help with the move and packing. She asks Clark "Mouth" Devenreaux to translate what she's saying for Rosalita because Clark is the only one to speak Spanish. He follows the two throughout the home, giving "translations" of what Mikey's mother says. later on, he's also asked numerous times to translate the map they find in the attic, which is what sends them on their adventure in the first place.
The Lesson: Even if you aren't planning on visiting a Spanish-speaking country, you should still learn it if you're living here in the United States. This country is a melting pot of cultures and peoples and Spanish, unlike French or Italian, is hugely spoken everywhere by immigrants from Mexico and Latin America and is the second most spoken language. Do yourself a favor, learn it, if anything to act as a translator like Mouth in the picture. It's also helpful for translating maps.
7: Sometimes the Ice Cream Just Isn't Worth It
While investigating the Fratelli's hideout, Chunk gets fed up (or frightened, I should say) and begins to storm out...but not before getting a sniff of something he loves. Ice cream, specifically "Chocolate Eruption" which sounds more like a movie from the adult section, but I digress. He halts his escape and throws open the freezer, after grabbing armfulls of desert, he then finds a corpse standing behind him. How he can smell the ice cream and not the decaying human flesh isn't important, but he shouldn't have ran in, because now he's trapped and his friends gone.
The Lesson: Don't be selfish. Some things you just have to let go and not rush things. We all love to get surprises, gifts or even treat ourselves when the opportunity arises. Sometimes, though, you just have to let some things go or, at least, think before you act. Plan, survey, look ahead. If you run into something for your own personal gain, you'll end up locked in a freezer with a corpse.
6: Asian Kids Love Gadgets and Don't Speak Engrish Very Well
Every kid had their own personal favorite Goony, but the one most tend to agree on as universally cool is Data, played by Ke Huy Quan whom Spielberg worked with on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He carries numerous little gadgets all over his body, from the shoes that squirt oil (Slick Shoes), a punching glove, a grappling hook, a spring-loaded weapon with chattering teeth on the end (Pinchers of Peril) and blinding lights (Bully Blinders). These didn't always work the way he intended, if at all, and his misfortune is our comedic gain. He's also fond of Booty Traps.
The Lesson: Call it a stereotype if you want, but Asian kids love gadgets. Go to Japan and they're probably carrying a half dozen in their pockets. Also, go to Japan and there's this weird mix of Japanese and English that often results in some very humorous results (especially when it comes to sex). If it weren't for kids like Data in 1980s, though, we wouldn't have all the cool stuff we have today, that's for sure.
5: Last Names Ending in Vowels are Bad (a.k.a. Italians are scary)
The biggest crime family in Astoria are the triad of the Fratelli's - Jake, Francis and Mama. They're thieves, murderers and notorious...and Jake just escaped from jail. Now on the run, they cross paths with the Goonies who discover their illegal operations and their hideout. From that point on, they're after them so they don't reveal their location to the police. Mama has a tough time keeping her boys in line, but it's safe to say they'd even be willing to put kid hands in blenders if it meant shutting them up. Not nice folks at all.
The Lesson: Before most kids saw gangster movies or learned about the mafia, they were introduced to the Fratellis. Italian, criminal-minded and just mean...and such is the way for most Italian stereotypes. But the lesson is learned: the Italian Mafia is bad news. Seeing as how most Italian last names end with a vowel, they're easy to spot...and to avoid. Of course, this led to more fascination of the Italian Mafia than fear for most people, but that doesn't mean they aren't scary.
4: There's Secret Tunnels, Caves, Waterfalls, Pirate Ships and Gold
Right Where You're Standing...Just Jump Down the Hole
As they make their way through the underground tunnels of Astoria, the Goonies come across a large cavern glittering with silver and gold. Thinking it's the treasure, they soon find out it's actually the wishing well from their town. Looking up, they see a way out...all these secrets, just a bucket ride away.
The Lesson: Beneath your feet is the hidden secret of your town. What's down there? Sewage, most likely, but they're still secret tunnels that were built long ago just so an entire town or city could be built on top of it. I sometimes wonder how deep the systems go, who built it and what they might have left down there. Parent's don't like their kids jumping into storm drains, though, which I'm sure many thought of doing after seeing The Goonies. It will forever be a mystery, out of sight and out of mind and we can thank this film for making us literally see beyond the surface.
(and they like candy)
Originally made out to be a monster, the Fratelli's deformed brother, Sloth, eventually becomes friends with Chunk thanks to Chunk sharing a candy bar with him. Chained to a wall with the candy out of reach, Sloth breaks his shackles and gets his treat which leads to him also breaking Chunk free. The two follow the Fratelli trio (who are following the rest of the Goonies) to One-Eyed Willy's pirate ship where Sloth reveals his superman shirt, swings down to save the rest of the Goonies and even uses himself as a support for the collapsing exit. He eventually shows up at the end with his family in tow and hands them to the police, a true hero, just as his Superman shirt implies.
The Lesson: An obvious one - don't judge a book by its cover. What starts out as a monster turns into one of the most beloved characters of many people's childhood. You might shun a person who doesn't look "normal," but rarely does anybody get to know them or spend time with them. Sloth taught us that ugliness outside doesn't always mean someone is ugly inside. Who knows, they may just save your life.
2: Working Together is the Only Way Through Tough Times (When life gives you lemons, make lemonade)
Throughout the entire film, the one element that never fades is the idea of teamwork. The entire group supports each other, even when the ground is breaking and traps being set off. Each help in their own way, making the Goonies a character itself; a sum of parts, if you will, that sees it all through to the end, hands clasped together and shoulders leaned upon. Mikey rallies, Data invents, Mouth translates, Chunk...well, every group needs an outlet for frustration. It's how they get to that treasure, and get through life as well.
The Lesson: Everyone can be down and out, but do you have what it takes to get back up again? That's when you need those around you for support, help and to get through those tough times. perhaps it's tough finding a job, keeping your home, other times it's when giant boulders drop from the ceiling or you're surrounded by bats. As their motto says: Never Say Die.
1: Money Isn't as Important as Friends and Family
Much like number two on this list, this lesson permeates throughout the entire film. From a hug, to a nod, to taking dreams back and someone to remind everyone the dreams aren't gone just yet. It's about friendship and family. The Goonies want to save their homes to stay with each other and to keep the place they've grown up in. Childhood homes are things nobody can take for granted, only until its gone do you really miss it. The Goonies don't want to start missing them, nobody does.
The Lesson: Sure, they might be kids out looking for treasure to save their town and homes, but let's remember the reason why they're doing it all. It's not just to save a house and a street, but to stay with each other. It's that aspect and how they all come together that makes them such a great unit and their friendship and care for each other so believable. It's not the money, it's the company, and that's a lesson we all should take note of.
It’s strange to see the Goonies still hold so strongly over pop culture even to this day. I can’t say what kid or family films and shows would have an impact today, other than Pixar probably, because most of the things today are reboots of the 1980s. It's weird how it's all come full circle. A sequel will never happen, but everyone still knows what the little film from 1985 is, even if they haven't seen it, it's in the same breath as James Bond, Star Wars and The Godfather in terms of breaking through to pop-culture notoriety. The film isn’t without its flaws, but the elements of childhood are so strong you tend to not even notice them and it’s till relevant even today. T-shirts, toys, statuettes, lunchboxes, comics, artwork and even footwear are still being made even to this day.
Below is an image of a recent reunion of the Goonies for Empire (you can also see a video here). 25 years later, all the actors still have a great fondness of it and in the various documentaries you can get the sense they will cherish it to the very end, especially its director.
"It was the best experience I ever had in my life." - Richard Donner
I guess Goonies really do never say die...we won't let them die, and they won't let us forget.