Although only a moderate success on its initial release, The Goonies has become one of the most cherished nostalgia-trips for those who were kids at the time of its 1985 debut. I only caught up with the film a couple of years later on its video release but it caught me at just the right time of my life to become a real favourite. Despite this, it has been a good few years since I last saw it & I was rather nervous as to how well the film would stand up as I revisited it on DVD. The answer was surprisingly well for although initially much of my enjoyment was due to the nostalgia factor, I soon found myself getting caught up in the adventure.
A rich & ruthless businessman intent on building a golf course is forcing the inhabitants of a small town so sell their houses to him for demolition. So when a group of misfit & outsider kids – known as “The Goonies” – discover a map leading to the buried treasure of legendary pirate One-Eyed Willie, they set off on one last adventure together to find the loot & save their homes. But hot on their heels are the nefarious Fratelli family – a bunch of notorious criminals who want the treasure for themselves.
“The Goonies” is one of a whole load of films executive produced by Steven Spielberg under the Amblin Entertainment banner during the 80s, & based upon his original story his fingerprints are all over the movie. From the opening sequences of the comically-invaded suburbia (as a car-chase is pushed into the background of everyday life) down to the kids on bikes, the Indiana Jones-style treasure hunt & booby traps, the kids working together to defeat the nefarious plotting of the grown-ups, to the don’t-judge-by-appearance theme, it all seems a bit Spielberg-by-numbers, & one of the complaints watching the film now is that this type of stuff is simply so over-familiar. The script proper is credited to Chris Columbus, displaying the kind of dark wit & vigour he brought to the previous years’ Spielberg-produced “Gremlins” screenplay – although the comically inept crooks look forward to his directorial outing Home Alone. Spielberg once again makes a canny choice for the directors chair, with Richard Donner having already proved himself on varied films such as The Omen & Superman, & having Lethal Weapon just around the corner. Having only watched the film in Pan & Scan, it was a real pleasure upon watching this film to discover how well Donner’s experienced eye utilises the full widescreen frame with some nice photography by Nick McLean. The perennially underappreciated Dave Grusin contributes a highly entertaining & lively orchestral score with nods to the classic work of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, whose score for Captain Blood is tracked in towards the conclusion.
The performances aren’t exactly award-calibre, but the young cast gamely give it their all & handle themselves fairly well. If the script too often goes for cheap laughs at the expense of the Data & Chunk characters, Ke Huy Quan (essentially repeating his Temple of Doom shtick) makes the former eminently likeable, whilst Jeff Cohen as the latter does get the biggest laughs and manages to save the day. While it’s hard not to be entertained by the film, it’s also hard not to think that it suffers from the over-familiar Spielberg milieu, some overly sentimental moments, & over-length. Had the film been trimmed to around an hour & a half it could have been the classic family adventure movie it’s often thought to be. Despite the flaws though, this is a funny & sometimes exciting trip down memory lane I’m glad to have taken.
Having been available on R1 for a couple of years now, Warner Home Video have finally relented & released the film on UK R2/PAL. Sadly, the extra time has not resulted in any extra bonus features, but the anamorphic 2.35:1 image is as good as you could realistically hope for, & the Dolby 5.1 clear & dynamic – even if it doesn’t make huge use of the surrounds. Alternate audio is provided in French & Italian & there’s a host of European language subtitle tracks.
The principle extra is an audio commentary re-uniting all of The Goonies with director Richard Donner. This is a highly entertaining listen, & at various points in the film the movie is shrunk down so we can watch the commentators. Great as the commentary is, unfortunately the other extras don’t add up to all that much. There’s almost 7 minutes of 3 deleted scenes (including the famed Octopus sequence), a brief contemporary “Making of” notable mostly for some neat on-set footage, a rather cheesy 2-part music video by Cyndi Lauper (directed by Richard Donner, running 12 mins), plus a trailer.
Unfortunately due to a production error, the first run of discs omitted the commentary, French & Italian audio tracks & subtitles. By the time you read this, only corrected copies should be on sale, but if you get stuck with an incomplete copy, Warners will exchange it for you. Simply send the disc (keep hold of the box though) together with your name & address to:
FREEPOST SCE 4551 PO BOX 327
HAYES, UB3 1BR
A replacement will be dispatched within 28 days. But make sure you remember to seal the envelope before you post it though; otherwise you’ll wind up looking pretty silly!