‘The Goonies’ is a wonderful escapist childhood fantasy

From left to right: Sean Astin, Jonathan Ke Quan, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton in 'The Goonies'
From left to right: Sean Astin, Jonathan Ke Quan, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton in ‘The Goonies’

When I was a kid, I was completely drawn in by The Goonies. A pure escapist childhood fantasy from the mind of Steven Spielberg. I went to see it with my friends several times. I made treasure maps at home, going so far as to literally burn the paper in the oven to brown it, then take a match and singe the edges.

I even took the painstaking steps to draw the musical notes on the back of the maps. The Goonies had me hooked.

And, yes, I even collected the trading cards.

When I saw that The Goonies had been released on DVD, I was excited. I hadn’t seen the film in years, but I remembered every scene, every character, every joke.

Renting it one night from Blockbuster — to the annoyance of my wife — I watched it in beautiful widescreen, and enjoyed the wonderful stereo sound. The quality of the image was terrific.

For those of you not “in the know,” The Goonies is a warm-hearted tale of a young boy, thirsty for adventure, wild with imagination, who desperately hopes his father will save his town from being demolished by local developers looking to build a golf course for their country club.

When he discovers a map detailing the way to famed-pirate One-Eyed Willy’s treasure, he enlists his hodge-podge collection of misfit friends to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

That adventure quickly turned into a race for their lives, as they avoid boody traps, er, I mean booby traps, as well as the dreaded Fertelli gang.

The performances are fun. I remember admiring Sean Astin, and being disappointed that he did little after The Goonies. However, he turned in a great performance in the under-appreciated Rudy, and will soon be seen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy — as my favorite character from the books, Sam, Frodo’s loyal friend.

Donner’s direction is simplistic, but he isn’t a terrifically stylish director — not that he needs to be, since he does know how to craft an enjoyable film.

Sure, there are some imperfections in the story and its plot. As I watch it with an adults’ eye, I find many aspects of the film to be rather odd — Sloth? What’s up with that? It also contains some cliché suspense elements, such as the scene where the children are playing on the bone piano to escape the Fertellis.

But, this isn’t the kind of film that requires analysis. It’s fun, it’s harmless, it’s a good, Saturday matinee popcorn movie.

As for the DVD, the single highlight is the terrific — and I mean TERRIFIC — audio commentary. Not only does Donner share some of his thoughts of the film, the ENTIRE CAST gathers to share their thoughts, comments and memories.

The cool part is, of course, seeing “Chunk” as an adult. He is thin and trim, and apparently has abandoned the acting business for a law career. The others continue to work in the film industry, achieving a certain level of success — or in Corey Feldman’s case, riding a roller coaster of success and failure.

As a child who grew up loving this film, hearing the actors talk about their experience making the film, sharing little tales of the behind the scenes shenanigans, was thoroughly entertaining.

I was especially surprised to hear about how Michael Jackson, a personal friend of Spielberg’s, was constantly on the set of the film. Plus, how Spielberg actually directed a few shots—one of which is PURE Spielberg. So much so that I thought it looked very Spielbergian at the time I watched it prior to listening to the commentary.

I was left, annoyingly, with one mystery I would LOVE to solve. Sean Astin, for some unexplained reason, left the audio commentary early in the film. While I don’t think it was because of anything bad, I would love to know why he left. It would have been much more enjoyable had he remained through the whole thing.

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