Friday, 8 August 2014

The Goonies [1985]

There are several surprising things about the legacy of The Goonies. The first is that a silly adventure movie has managed to last as long as it has in the public conscious, the second is that despite releasing in the middle of the 1980s, the height of commercial tie-ins, it has never really been a particularly milked franchise. It's a movie the resonates with people of a certain age and younger, that adults who were already grown up by the time it came out, just don't quite understand.

The director would go on to make more popular movies such as Home Alone and Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone, yet this is the work he would always come back to. Steven Spielberg, who has made more classic films than you could shake a stick at, has even tried several times to spearhead a sequel of some kind, but has never managed to get the feel he was looking for. It never felt right.

So why does it hold up? What makes this film stand out?

The plot is simple. The writing and acting isn't award winning. Yet, it's beloved by about everyone born later than 1980.

The reason it is considered a classic to a generation of kids being passed down to their kids is because it has something lesser movies like Monster Squad don't. It is a pure adventure story where the reward is understanding childhood and growing up.

The Goonies succeeds because of its simplicity.

Of course, the cast list is impressive. Just about every '80s kid star was in this, which definitely helped in the performance department. Chris Columbus was at his best as a director here, not at his usual reliance on noise, but on character interaction. The set design, location shooting, and score are all excellent, as well. So the pieces really do come together. But it's the love of adventure that sets it apart.

The childhood sense of fairy-tales and wonder. What if there was an adventure waiting for you just around the corner, just out of sight? What if you found a treasure map that could lead you to the very treasure you need? What if your friends and family were by your side and depending on yo, of all people, for guidance? It asks all the usual questions kids think about while giving them the answers in this very film.

Mikey (Sean Astin) is the leader of a group of kids who call themselves Goonies. They aren't very popular, they're just your normal kids who dream of adventure and play around like boys do. But after learning they will be losing their homes due to an encroaching country club, Mikey suggests to the group that they go on one last adventure for old times sake, before they have to leave. What they end up doing is following a map that Mikey finds which leads them to the very treasure that could save their home.

The families of the main characters are being pushed to leave their home behind, unless they come up with tons of money somehow to buy back their land, and its up to the plucky kids to find a way to save their homes and families. That's it. It isn't anything deeper than that.

The only problem is that the criminal Fratelli family is also looking for it, and aren't above killing kids to keep them quiet. What the kids must do is apply everything they've learned to stay ahead of the bad guys, and keep their wits about them in order to reach the treasure.

It's very much a story of growing up while also a love letter to childhood. Evil is real, it's right behind you waiting for you to slip up. There is a treasure map that can lead you to the very gold you seek, that only requires you to be the best you can be. And the real treasure is not the coins you can fit in your pocket, but the very family and friends by your side who help you get there.

There isn't much else to say about the film except that it was one of the most influential in my life. It was simple and straightforward, a little perilous and the kids could get a bit mouthy, but the sense of adventure and exploration gripped hold of me. It inspired me in many games of my own as a kid, and even got my interested in adventure stories, which I still hold to be the best sort of stories and what I prefer writing.

This isn't a deep movie. It's not perfect. It isn't going to win awards, or get praise showered upon it. I mean, there's a whole generation of older people who don't understand its appeal at all. But, that's fine. I get that.

But it also embodies everything kids dream about, and adults look back on with fondness. That adventure that's waiting for you just around the corner. Then there's the greatest adventure of all, growing up. Life itself is an adventure, something we can all relate to as we travel on the journey.

That is why it will always be one of my favorite films.

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