Ostensibly, the film is about a group of misfit youths, led by Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin, long before his Lord of the Rings days), who believes that he has located a map to the buried treasure of a mythic pirate, One Eyed Willie. With him are Mouth (Corey Feldman), Data (Jonathan Ke Quan, just a year after he appeared as Short Round in the first Indiana Jones sequel), and Chunk (Jeff Cohen). The two are joined by Mikey's older brother, Brandon (Josh Brolin, looking so young you'd never think he would grow up to play a president or appear in a Coen Brothers movie), his would-be girlfriend, Andy (the lovely Kerri Green), and her sassy friend, Stephanie (Martha Plimpton). Adding to the conflict are fun villains Ma Fratelli (Anne Ramsey), Francis Fratelli (Joe Pantoliano) and Jake Fratetti (Robert Davi) as well as unlikely hero Sloth Fratelli (John Matuszak). In sum, it's a fun ensemble piece which requires a bit of disbelief suspension.
It is most certainly a movie for kids, or perhaps, as Wikipedia suggests, adults who were once children of the 1980s. That fateful online dictionary notes:
The Goonies grossed US$9 million in its opening weekend in the US, second on the charts behind Rambo: First Blood Part II. It grossed over US$61 million that year, placing it among the top ten highest grossing films of 1985 (in the US). However the film was a box office disappointment. The year before the same studio and film producers released Gremlins, which grossed $145 million. All parties involved thought The Goonies would equal the success of Gremlins. In the decades following its release, The Goonies has gained a cult following, primarily of people who were children or teens in the 1980s. There have also been fan festivals in the town of Astoria.But the real question: Would children of the 2010s enjoy this film, and would adults enjoy it today were it not infused with some sort of nostalgia for their '80s era youths?
The answer: Probably not, on both counts.
I'm not certain I ever saw the film all the way from beginning to end until yesterday. This is not to say I've not watched the film many a time, but it was always the sort of flick I would keep watching if I stumbled upon it on cable television. I don't recall seeing it at the theatre in 1985 (though I do remember much elementary school discussion about its video game spin-off). Never having owned it, I would simply watch it when it was on, and enjoy it for what it was: a campy big budget adventure movie for kids (featuring a lovely red-headed actress, no less).
But I wonder how well the film has aged.
These are not young characters who spout off ironic pop culture references or carry about cell phones and handheld devices. They are not cynical and self referential in the way that so many high school students or young children are depicted in film and television today.
That makes me wonder how the self aware children of today would view a film like this from 1985. (Remember, this film came out a few weeks before Back to the Future, and a few years after the last of the original Star Wars films. It was a long time ago.). What to think?
Would it be too simple? Not dark enough? Too slapstick? Dare I say it, too 1980s?
Watching the film yesterday, I wondered how much of my enjoyment stemmed from the fact that I remember enjoying it and watching it when I was a child in the 1980s.
Does that inevitably influence my own opinion of the film, two and a half decades later?
When viewing something of this sort, am I, a thirty-something viewer, inextricably intertwined with the pop culture tastes of my adolescent self?
There may not be an answer.
Whatever you do to celebrate and observe this anniversary, be certain to check out the great 25th anniversary coverage of the Branded in the 80s blog.