The Goonies

June 7, 1985

I have long held a stance on THE GOONIES that was highly controversial: I found it annoying. I don’t think I’m alone on that anymore, but it used to get me into trouble because of how many people of a particular age group hold that movie as a sacred relic of childhood.

For most of my writing career I’ve had a policy of being ambiguous about my age, because I wanted to seem like a crusty old man, regardless of how little that seemed to fit with the particular things I was knowledgeable about. As I get closer to being authentically old and crusty I’m starting to be more lax about that, so at last the truth can be told: I am exactly the right age to have grown up loving this movie. In fact, I did grow up loving this movie. And I’ll even go you one further: I saw it twice in one day. My mom took me and my friends to see it on my birthday, and since there wasn’t room in the car for my siblings, she brought them to see it later in the day, and I went that time too.

But when I saw it again as an adult I learned something disappointing: those fucking goonies never fucking shut up! This despite one character putting their hand over another character’s mouth to shut them up being a major motif. It’s a movie starring a group of pre-teen boys, and though they’re not quite as naturalistic as the kids in E.T. (which I think they were deliberately modeled after) they do have an accurate 12-year-old-boy energy, which means they’re constantly joking and giggling and bickering and yelling over each other and telling each other to be quiet. I was less patient with them than my mom must’ve been with my carload of friends, so for years after that viewing I would say that GOONIES feels like being tricked into chaperoning somebody else’s kids at Chuck E. Cheese. I didn’t remember that Martha Plimpton’s slightly older character actually sums up the movie well when she says something similar: “I feel like I’m babysitting except I’m not getting paid.”

Fast forward to today. The futuristic year of 2020. That figurative trip to Chuck E. Cheese was considerably longer ago than the double-screening birthday party had been at that time. Since then I’ve learned things. I’ve been through things. My tastes have changed. The world has turned more goonie. I was kind of excited to see it again and find out if I still hated it. I had no idea if I would.

It is, of course, the story of a bunch of kids in Astoria, Oregon going on an adventure on what they think will be their last weekend before having to move so their neighborhood can be demolished for the expansion of a country club golf course. The nearby docks (and surrounding neighborhood?) are called the Goondocks, so the kids are called the Goonies. I don’t think I understood as a kid that it’s a class distinction, which is why they proudly refer to themselves as Goonies but bad-guy-son-of-the-country-club-owner Troy (Steve Antin, PENITENTIARY III) yells “YOU GOONIESSSS!!!” like it’s an insult.

They’re all convening at the home of Mikey (Sean Astin in his pre-TOY SOLDIERS theatrical movie debut) and older brother Brand (acting debut of Josh Brolin, followed by THRASHIN’) when they go into the attic (which they’ve never been in before?) and discover clues about a lost pirate treasure once believed to be hidden in their town. It leads them to a boarded up restaurant which they discover is

1) the hideout for a family of counterfeiters who just escaped from the local jail (long story)

2) over the entrance to a series of tunnels with a series of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK style booby-traps and a waterslide and a pirate ship and etc.

It was the second movie of the year for director Richard Donner, LADYHAWKE having been released in April. At the time he was the-guy-who-did-SUPERMAN (which is referenced when Sloth (NFL defensive lineman John Matuszak, CAVEMAN, THE ICE PIRATES) reveals his Superman t-shirt and a bit of John Williams’ theme plays), but the opening scene nods to his future as the-guy-who-did-LETHAL-WEAPON. Jake Fratelli (Robert Davi, CITY HEAT) is an inmate who fakes a hanging so he can attack the guard and be busted out by his brother Francis (Joe Pantoliano, RISKY BUSINESS, EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS, THE FINAL TERROR) and their mean, beret-wearing mama (Anne Ramsey, ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN). The resulting high speed car chase and shootout is well shot, with only the score by Dave Grusin (THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE) and the occasional wacky bystander reaction to tell us not to take it seriously.

The design of that opening scene is very clever, and reminds me more of producer/story-provider Steven Spielberg in the way it visually establishes the geography of the town and introduces all of the main characters as the chase goes past them. For example Chunk (Jeff Cohen, who had done one TV movie and episodes of Tales From the Darkside, Webster, The Facts of Life and Kids Incorporated) actually witnesses the chase from a fast food restaurant while Mouth (Corey Feldman, the most experienced of the kids with numerous credits including THE FOX AND THE HOUND, The Bad News Bears tv series, Madame’s Place, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER and GREMLINS) doesn’t notice it go by his house because he thinks the sirens are from the cop show he’s watching on TV.

The Spielberg/Amblin touch is obvious in this setting of a small town, picturesque but with realistic texture, seen mostly through the perspective of its children who ride around on bikes, go to each other’s houses, with parents popping in sometimes but mostly at work. I really like the way cinematographer Nick McLean (CHEECH AND CHONG’S NEXT MOVIE, STROKER ACE) shoots the town – production designer J. Michael Riva (HALLOWEEN II, TANGO & CASH, DJANGO UNCHAINED) probly deserves credit for this too. The feel of the movie is far from gloomy, the sky is grey and foggy, houses and fences and things look aged and dirty, living rooms are realistically cluttered, giving a real world grounding to the fantastical journey they’re about to go on. Which mainly consists of tunnels, traps, skeletons, a waterslide, and a grotto with a pirate ship in it. Kind of underwhelming compared to many movies, but stuff that would be pretty impressive for a kid to discover in their town they think they love but will get the hell away from when they get older.

One thing I’ve noticed about these Goonies is that they’re weirdly bad at noticing things. Chunk doesn’t notice that he’s smooshing his hamburger and milkshake against a window. Andy (Kerri Green) doesn’t notice that the little boy in the not completely dark cave who she grabs and makes out with is not the manly teenage jock she has a crush on. All of them take a few minute to notice that the coins they find in the wishing well are pennies and nickels, not treasure (or “rich stuff” as they call it in their Astorian slang and/or infantilizing dialogue). For half of the movie they don’t notice that the “candles” they find and carry around do not look like candles, and do look like dynamite, and also have the word “DYNAMITE” written across at least one of them in large, plain letters.

The cast is good. Feldman was obviously a good kid actor, and knows how to pull off this smart ass with an Eddie Haskell front to parents and a sadistic streak. I feel like the part where he convinces non-English-speaker Rosalita (Lupe Ontiveros, EL NORTE) that Mrs. Walsh (Mary Ellen Trainor, ROMANCING THE STONE) has threatened to lock her in a dungeon is a little grim. Jeff Cohen as Chunk gets alot of broad clumsy-guy and fat-guy-eating-things material, but he has a very natural comic persona that’s crucial to the movie being watchable.

I’m glad Astin has become better known for a couple of popular wizardy movies, because I don’t have to feel bad about saying I think they saddled him with a real wet bag of a central character here. Everybody else gets to be funny, but he’s supposed to be the sincere dreamer guy, which mostly just means he makes a couple whiny speeches about finding the treasure and keeps talking to long-dead-pirate One-Eyed Willie the way William Petersen looks across the city and talks to the killer in MANHUNTER. But other people don’t seem bothered by it, so maybe it’s a personal thing to me, some kind of discomfort with having seen myself like that when I was young. (Not that I identified with him at the time. Obviously I wanted to be Data [Ke Huy Quan, following INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM], and build some kind of fancy shooting contraption.)

The Fratellis are well cast, and Davi especially plays it like a straight villain instead of a broad HOME ALONE type of approach. Anne Ramsey is most remembered for this movie and THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, for her distinct appearance and performance as a mean old lady. She does her thing, but there’s one little moment I really appreciated this time where she has pushed the kids out of the restaurant/hideout. She closes the door, leans back against it and sighs before saying, “Kids suck.” I mean, it’s partly funny because I agree with her that these kids are exhausting, but it’s also just a tiny slice of nuance to her character. We get this one little peak at a different side of her where she’s stressed and grateful for a moment of peace.

If a movie imprints on you when you’re young sometimes you accept some weird shit and don’t really think about how weird it is. So watching it this time I wondered – we’ve got this whole class issue with the land development deal, but the main bad guys are an Italian-American crime family who are not connected to the treasure (except by coincidental location)… and by the way they have a deformed brother who they keep chained in a dungeon? Kind of a CASTLE FREAK? Or a restaurant freak I guess. It’s a weird idea, but kind of funny that Chunk becomes his pal.

I know everybody points this out, but it feels important to mention that at the end Chunk tells Sloth he’s coming to live with him. This is an example of the movie seeming to take a child’s perspective of the world and not caring what adults are going to think. It seems like Mr. and Mrs. Chunk probly have enough to worry about with moving all their stuff back into their house without having to worry about spontaneously welcoming an adult muscleman with a childlike mentality raised in a dungeon by a crime family into their home. But kudos to them for being willing to face this challenge.

It never occurred to me before how Tobe Hooper some of that shit is. The scene where Chunk sees into the room, where this monstrous dude is chained to a chair, and he sees only the back of him, hearing him moan and his brother berate him, with a TV on… it was so much like THE FUNHOUSE. And like that movie there’s a scene of hiding and trying to be quiet while seeing the scary guys through floorboards with unusually wide gaps between them. And later there’s the organ built entirely out of human bones.

Speaking of bones, let me mention another little thing I really like: the opening titles, with the three-dimensional skull and crossbones that flies at the camera, and the unique sort of carved out white lettering. I love when a movie starts out strong like that. I haven’t verified if he personally designed the font, but the title designer is Richard Greenberg of R/Greenberg Associates. He did the incredible, even iconic titles for SUPERMAN and ALIEN. Also FLASH GORDON and visual FX for PREDATOR. In 1989 he directed that movie LITTLE MONSTERS. With his later company Greenberg/Schluter he designed LETHAL WEAPON for Donner, and THE MATRIX for, you know… civilization.

So that’s where I’m at. I didn’t turn around on this movie, but I wouldn’t say I hate it. I can acknowledge it has many technical strengths, good moments and unique qualities. I can see how it appealed to me as a kid, with this fantasy of something really incredible happening right there in your boring ass town. E.T. did it better and holds up better as an adult, but there are certainly worse versions of it than this. There’s something there. I’d rather watch THE MONSTER SQUAD, but I can see why Goonies ‘r’ good enough for you guys.

THE GOONIES opened at #2, behind RAMBO week 3. It went on to be the #9 highest grossing movie of the year and surely made a ton more on video.



The biggest one was the video for Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘r’ Good Enough” video. In the movie they see her singing the song on TV (which is weird since you hear the word “Goonies” in the song). Later she made a video, which is directed by Donner but takes place in the goofy world of her videos, where Captain Lou Albano is her dad and she runs a struggling gas station that gets terrorized by Rowdy Roddy Piper, Classy Freddie Blassie, the Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff and The Fabulous Moolah. But then she finds a “hidden cave” where most of the Goonies happen to be with a treasure map, and then there are clips from the movie and then the wrestlers come after them dressed as pirates. She goes onto a rope bridge/waterfall set of the movie and calls for help from Steven Spielberg, who appears watching on a TV, but has no advice. And then there’s a cliffhanger and there’s a part 2 to the video where she’s on the pirate ship and Wendy Richter and Andre the Giant show up.

Spielberg also put Lauper in charge of the soundtrack. She suggested The Bangles, who would blow up the following year. There are also songs by Philip Bailey, Teena Marie, REO Speedwagon, Luther Vandross, Joseph Williams and someone credited as “Goon Squad” whose “Eight Arms To Hold You” was originally made for a scene where they get attacked by a giant octopus and use the song playing on a Walkman to scare it away. There was a 12” single with dance mixes.

The album had the theme by Grusin, but not “Fratelli Chase” from the opening, which was subsequently used in a million trailers.

There was a novelization by James Kahn, who also did books of RETURN OF THE JEDI, TEMPLE OF DOOM, POLTERGEIST and POLTERGEIST II. I didn’t read it, but apparently it is told from Mikey’s point-of-view, includes some scenes cut from the movie and has them living in fictional Hillside, Oregon rather than Astoria. According to IMDb trivia, it “confirms that Chunk’s parents actually do ‘adopt’ Sloth, going so far as to throw him a Bar Mitzvah.”

There was a video game for Atari, Commodore 64 and Apple II. In 1987 there was a The Goonies II game. So we know if there had been a sequel to the movie it would’ve been about Mikey going through buildings and caverns using a slingshot, boomerang and molotov cocktails to free his friends and a mermaid from cages.

In 2007 there was some sort of Flash-based game advertisement for Jeep called The Goonies: Return to Astoria. It was at www.returntoastoria.com, which now hosts “The Best Legal Anabolic Steroids UK / Legal Steroid Pills.”

pop culture references:

This is the most entrenched-in-pop-culture of the Summer of 1985 movies so far. Mikey has a Prince mural on his wall, Mouth wears a PURPLE RAIN t-shirt, they mention Michael Jackson, there’s a picture of ZZ Top hanging in the living room, they watch Cyndi Lauper on TV. Sloth watches CAPTAIN BLOOD and a cooking show (The Frugal Gourmet?), quotes The Electric Company, somebody mentions the Hardy Boys TV show and Martin Sheen playing JFK (either the Kennedy mini-series or THE MISSILES OF OCTOBER) and Mouth makes a dumb reference to ROCKY. There’s a joke about GREMLINS (since screenwriter Chris Columbus and Spielberg made it), but they restrain themselves from mentioning Indiana Jones. There’s a joke about Pole Position.

summer of 1985 connections:

Two weeks after the release of A VIEW TO A KILL we have the character of Data, who idolizes James Bond, wears a belt buckle with “007” on it and has the Bond theme play for him sometimes.


In addition to introducing Astin and Brolin to movie acting, this was the first major FX animation job for Wes Takahashi, who went on to become the head of animation for ILM, animate the DreamWorks boy-on-the-moon logo, and help Peter Jackson start Weta Digital. Also, for some reason, he appears in four Rob Schneider movies.

I don’t know for sure if this started it, but there started to be a whole lot of “falling down dirty waterslide” scenes.

THE GOONIES has also provided years of material for movie news aggregators, who get to report on every rumor of development on a torch-passing remake or every time Sean Astin or somebody are asked if they would be interested. I doubt it will ever happen, but who knows. The one new thing I have to add to this topic is that I heard a story years ago that David Gordon Green was in a meeting with someone who mentioned they were looking for ideas for a GOONIES sequel or remake, so he improvised a pitch about kids on rollerblades solving mysteries.

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52 Responses to “The Goonies”

  1. I don’t like this one either, except for the soundtrack. (Cyndi Lauper and the Bangles, that is. I can endure without the REO Speedwagon.) As with YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, I always have to remind myself that Chris Columbus just wrote this one and didn’t direct. I’ll give the guy this — while he loves serving up infantilised Spielberg knockoffs, he puts his own flavour into them, for better or worse.

    The filthy waterslide thing was in ROMANCING THE STONE the year before this, right? Don’t know if there were other precedents.

  2. This is one of those movies that are huge cult hit in the US, but not that well known here in Germany. Although it’s at least more often on TV than PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE or MONSTER SQUAD, so it’s not fully obscure.

    It’s been not too long ago since I saw it the last time. Five years maybe? I think it’s a nice 80s movie to watch every few years, but nothing too special. I definitely liked it more as a kid too, but I’m not as annoyed by the constant noise that the kids make, like so many other adults seem to.

  3. I loved this movie when I was a kid. I haven’t seen it in years, but I don’t remember ever developing an annoyance for it, so I’m not sure the annoying kid stuff would get to me. Possibly, because I find so many kids annoying in real life. I think it might always have a place in my heart though, because I just now realized that the crush I developed on Josh Brolin, because of this movie, was the first crush that wasn’t on a non-threatening, pretty boy. Huh.

  4. Yay! I just rewatched this two weeks ago. It also stood out to me this time that the kids are bad at noticing things.

    One other aspect that confused and unsettled me (then and now) is the relationship of underground/tunnel space to above ground space. For instance, apparently water pipes can be jiggled by hand and result in above-ground shenanigans far away (assuming the goonies haven’t journeyed all the way back into town at that point, which seems unlikely given the implied timeframe). Then there’s the wishing well scene, where the bros sitting on the well don’t react with astonishment to the fact that a whole bunch of people are walking around beneath them, including the person they were leching over moments before (maybe this was supposed to read partially as an indictment of their intelligence level?). Then a pirate ship that has been sitting without upkeep for centuries sails itself undamaged through a door that no tide or storm has yet eroded. Maybe because these are moments where the grounded world of Astoria interacts with the magical world below, they weird me out.

  5. I haven’t watched Goonies in ages, but I think the idea that there’s something magical hidden just beneath the surface of our mundane world incredibly appealing as a kid. That contrast of the boring, sidewalk-lined suburbia and this secret pirate history really sparked my imagination. Some of the cartoonier shit didn’t work for me even as a kid, like when they’re messing with water pipes. I mean, you can bend the real-world rules a little, like with all of Data’s gadgets, but there’s still a line.

    As I got older, I saw this as a relatively successful update of the Our Gang shorts. It’s a better Little Rascals movie than the actual Little Rascals reboot from the 90s. Also, the not-so-hidden Reaganomics critique gives the film some substance, a little weight.

    Nostalgia has certainly helped it along. It’s not a stone-cold classic like E.T., but I enjoyed watching it the few times I revisited Goonies as an adult. Cyndi Lauper had it right. Goonies r in fact good enough, but not great.

  6. yeah, that imprinting angle is real, as is the real, lived-in textured element. The kids and the Fratellis are a colorful, very human, very flawed, just-caricatured-and-template-y-enough bunch. It’s a movie that celebrated nerdery in all its various forms before “nerd culture” was considered cool. And it’s just a fun, Indiana Jones adventure. Mike does a great job anchoring it. I unashamedly love Mouth and Chunk, I don’t care if they never shut up–I don’t want them to! it’s a great hangout film. charming score. great actors, great casting, great look, uplifting message, some fun adventure peril, swashbuckling, coming-of-age stuff. As kiddie-aimed action-adventure comedies go, you could do a lot worse!

  7. Revisited this recently as well, and it is completely a nostalgia film for me. One thing that always bothered me is in the bone piano scene. She “plays a wrong note” confusing A Sharp with B Flat, but that’s the same fucking key on a piano.

  8. It’s been years since I saw the movie, but I seem to recall a brief Indiana Jones reference – the Fratellis accidentally trigger one of the booby traps, and one of them mutters “Didn’t you see RAIDERS?” as they try to escape.

  9. I wonder what happened to Kerri Green. She really had a whiz bang start to her career there for a few years. It almost seemed like she was going to go on to do a bunch of movies with Charlie Sheen. They had great chemistry in LUCAS and THREE FOR THE ROAD.

  10. Maggie- Kerri Green retired from acting to go to Vassar College. She ended up doing some tv work again in the 90s but I don’t think she really had any major roles after college. And since she did 3 or 4 movies with Charlie Sheen, including the last one before going to school, I wouldn’t be surprised if having to spend so much time with him soured her on the whole industry (but that part is just speculation from me).

  11. I was wondering if Charlie had any part of it. I doubt he started out the way he’s ended up but you never know.

  12. I totally wanted to be Data.

  13. I was of course too old when this came out to have any sentimental memories of it at all. But I have rewatched it several times, and as a former punk rocker – and father of three – I must say I can’t quite understand why grown-ups find it noisy. Is life in general too loud for them?

  14. Glad you mentioned the interesting look and tone of this movie, as I do think it’s probably the most notable thing about it (or I assume so – I haven’t seen it probably since the George HW Bush administration and don’t plan on making it a priority). I saw this when it first came out under similar circumstances to yours, and I think I was just old enough at age 9 to start noticing – even if just a bit below the level of conscious articulation – that certain movies looked and sounded and felt different from others. I seem to think Donner did decent job channeling Spielberg’s style, although having Michael Kahn at the editing bench is what probably accounts for both its agreeable pace and multiple Spielberg-style grace notes, many of which you noted above.

    Looking forward to an upcoming entry in the 1985 series, also produced by Spielberg, in which his style is much more productively riffed on, and in some ways improved upon (in my opinion).

  15. I think the main reason Goonies 2 rumors keep going is Donner himself. He hasn’t directed a movie since 16 Blocks which sucks because we should’ve had more Richard Donner movies since then. I wonder if it’s Hollywood ageism, they don’t want to let an old guy who’s not Clint Eastwood direct.

    But the movies they have to offer him first are the sequels to his own movies, so if Goonies 2 or Lethal Weapon 5 are the only way to get another Donner movie, I support that strategy.

    One other thing. My mom is bad remembering names so she only remembers taking me to see a movie “about kids in a grotto.”

  16. The Goonies has always been pure nostalgia for me. I can’t say I’ve sat down and watched it in the last 5 years, but it was a staple for me back in the day. The perfect rainy weekend watch. Growing up in a small town myself, going on adventures with my friends on bikes, idolising someone’s older sibling etc, The Goonies very much seemed in key with my own personal experiences. We just never got to go on a life or death adventure whilst being chased by a crime family, a deformed-but-well-meaning mutant and our fat buddy. But man did we want to be.

    Perhaps Vern, and I’m no expert on your backstory (genetic superhuman experiment is my guess), but did you yourself have a lack of this sort of upbringing? Maybe this is why it doesn’t connect so much?

    While I am sure this does not apply to everyone, I feel this mirroring of my own childhood experiences is what helps keep the Goonies, and films like it, so strongly resonant. ET, It, Stand By Me, Explorers, and Stranger Things, all seem to capture that blissful childhood period and distill it onto the screen. Of course none of us would ever get to go on such adventures. But that doesn’t stop us remembering those times, that kinship and those feelings of limitless possibility.

    As Stephen King so fucking aptly put it in Stand By Me, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”.

  17. That line depressed the hell out of me when I was 12. “Really?” I thought. “These chumps are the best I’m ever going to do?”

    Sadly, King was kinda right, as usual.

  18. That’s crazy. I was thinking about how much that STAND BY ME line depressed me just the other night.

    Despite all the stereotypes, THE GOONIES kids are realistic for the same reason some people find the movie annoying. They haven’t learned adult social habits and are always talking over one another. The script must be 200-pages long. Donner was probably inspired by the overlapping dialogue in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and certain Altman films, though there are a lot of Spielberg touches in GOONIES’ direction. Like that shot at the start which connects the motion of a guy catching a football with Kerri Green putting a tape in the cassette player, all in a single shot. It’s a total TEMPLE OF DOOM era Spielberg touch.

  19. I actually like this movie a lot, even though I didn’t wind up seeing it til my 30s.

    I will say though, a friend of mine from college grew up in Astoria, the town GOONIES happens in, and he *loved* THE GOONIES as a result. I went down there once with him when we were shooting a student film together. It was really small obviously, but pretty cool- we got to go into the town’s little underground for shooting, which was basically like a block of restauraunts/shops that all had one huge connected basement that fed deeper underground. Not sure how far, since I wasn’t trying to get eaten by Pennywise down there.

  20. All the people I was friends with at age 12 were major assholes, it wasn’t until I got older that I had the confidence to “be myself” and make friends who wanted to be around me for who I was. And by that I mean like, my wife and one or two other people.

  21. Yeah, 12 was a super hard age for me. It’s when you’re starting to see friends as someone you want to bond with over shared interests and ideology, rather than just someone you can play with. Unfortunately for me there was only one other kid my age in my neighborhood and she was a vicious bully. It wasn’t until about 12 years old that it started messing with me psychologically and made it hard for me to connect with others without coming off as a weirdo. Luckily in the next couple of years I got into a great group of friends who helped to socialize me. I still have issues to this day from shit she did, though.

  22. I don’t know that my 12 year-old friends are the best I ever had, but it was that period of life where I was part of a little brat pack of buddies who would routinely have hangouts, sleep-overs, rent a movie or take in a film, etc. I would not say that those were the best friends or times of my life, but they were good times and times that had a unique sense of social identity and espirt d’corps. The GOONIES absolutely captures that, and its various textures, from the older brother who thinks your a damn pest, to the hot, out-of-reach older hotties, the sense of possibility and the psychological vastness of spaces, the means of counteracting boredom, the opacity and unrelatability of grown-ups, etc.

    Having kids is a not-frequently-talked-about to frowned-upon thing around these parts, but that’s definitely an angle for me, too. My kids love the kids, which gives me strong anecdotal focus group evidence of its timeless appeals (for white middle class folks related to me, at least, I guess, lol). Sharing the film with them and seeing their joy has put some extra gas in its tank and extra occasions to watch or at least passively track in the background.

  23. Been awhile since I saw this. But saw it after I heard everyone going on about how amazing it was, and then the other side saying it was terrible because of nostalgia. So eventually I checked it out and…I liked it!

    The opening is really wonderfully directed. Great energy, camera moving, music, great way to introduce the characters, it’s funny. I thought the scenes with the kids were pretty funny, especially the upside down penis. I liked a lot of the set pieces. I REALLY admire how gruesome those old Spielberg kids movies are, that scene where they stick Chunk’s hand in a blender to threaten him is pretty fucked up. It really makes the cartoony shit kind of stick. Yeah yeah, Harry Potter has dark stuff happen to him and it’s gruesome and whatever, but this is taking a child’s hand and sticking it in a fucking BLENDER.

    Interesting thing about Donner, he didn’t do many comedies and maybe for the best. I heard the story about how Bill Murray was always getting pissed at him on Scrooged, because he said Donner simply equated loudness and yelling with comedy and was never subtle. Which is true when you watch that movie. And more than perfectly describes Goonies. Scrooged has it’s moments but I don’t think it really gels, while Goonies worked for me.

  24. And yet, Carol Kane dressed as a fairy hitting Bill Murray will never not be funny. I’d even argue that the kind of Three Stooges slapstick that came to predominate as comedy in the LETHAL WEAPONS as they moved away from the cleverness of Shane Black’s original screenplay is as close as Donner gets to an auteurist move.

    Which is not to say I dislike Donner’s films. Donner has directed five or six movies that I will always find thrilling or entertaining. I even like 16 BLOCKS more than most people seem to.

    But the non-Spielberg Amblin movies of this period that work best for me are those where the director seems to’ve brought something of themselves to the Spielberg/Columbus world view/screenplay, not just technical brilliance. I’m guessing we’ll come back to Zemeckis later, but I’m also thinking of Joe Dante, George Miller (and don’t forget that Donner directed the original Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) and, yes, Tobe Hooper. Who but Belushi obsessives now remembers CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, directed by Michael Apted?

  25. “And yet, Carol Kane dressed as a fairy hitting Bill Murray will never not be funny.”

    I think you spelled “sexy” wrong.

  26. “You know I like the rough stuff, don’t you, Frank?”

  27. SCROOGED contains some of my most quoted material.

  28. SCROOGED maybe isn’t the *best* Christmas movie of all time (that’s obviously MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL), but I do always wind up watching it sometime in late December. I think Murray really sells the big speech at the end, corny as it is, and his delivery of “and they’re *really* looking” always makes me laugh.

  29. I am just as fond of the animated one Disney did. If I am somehow in the holiday spirit this December I’ll have to watch all three to compare. Also interested in the one FX did last year. SCROOGED holds up a little bit for the more serious parts, teasing Murray’s range before he was much better at it in the Wes Anderson movies and LOST IN TRANSLATION later on.

    Not particularly related to the discussion aside from it’s brief mention in an early comment but I skimmed through most of Mike Ovitz’s auto-biography a few days ago. If I read it right, two of the first people to get the LETHAL WEAPON script were Paul Newman and Robert Redford. I could kind of buy Newman as Murtaugh, the “I’m getting too old for this shit” more suited to a man his age instead of Glover who turned 40 while filming. Nothing for Redford (who is said in the book to have hated the script), but I suppose it would have been better than LEGAL EAGLES.

  30. I think I have seen GOONIES 3.5 times, all of them long after it came out and I had heard almost universal praise from everybody forever. The first time I think I saw the last half of it on TV and didn’t like it much, because it felt cartoony and disconnected, and thought maybe I was missing something. Then I watched it again, on purpose, all the way through and again didn’t like it and thought it was a forgettable kids movie with really barely anything going for it. Then I forgot I had watched it all the way through and watched it again, only realizing 2/3 of the way into it that, yes, I had seen the whole thing, and no, I didn’t like it. Then my friend had a “retro” movie night at his house featuring GOONIES so I watched it again in solidarity, and this time I actually liked it and appreciated its good qualities while forgiving its badnesses. The not so great parts are a big step up from the awful forced comedy that we get in most modern movies, after all. And it is 1000 times better than one of my friend’s other retro movie choices one night, HOWARD THE DUCK, which is absolutely horrendous on all levels. So to those who aren’t fans of GOONIES — watch it 3.5 times, the 3.5th time after HOWARD THE DUCK, and learn to like it pretty good.

    I have forgotten that I watched a movie all the way through several times now and it will probably get more common as I get older. It usually happens when I saw it partway through once, it seemed interesting, and then watched it all the way through and realized I didn’t like it so much so I forgot about the rewatch. Most recently, I watched TIME BANDITS from start to finish and, yep, I have indeed seen it at least 2.5 times now. Hopefully as I get much older I will forget EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and GOODFELLAS but probably no such luck.

  31. Howard the Duck is terrible and nonstop lame, but the monster at the end is one of the best stop motion creatures ever.

  32. RIP Richard Donner.

  33. Any director who’s oeuvre consists of a still enjoyable kiddie action adventure, the most iconic Superman film, the most successful buddy cop action franchise of all times, a perfectly watchable Stallone/Banderas assassin thriller, the last watchable Bruce Willis cop role outside of DIE HARD, a decent MAVERICK remake and a Michael Crichton time travel adaptation that’s a guilty pleasure is A-Ok in my book.

    RIP Mr.Donner

  34. Don’t forget the spawn of satan movie that’s actually better than THE EXCORCIST.

  35. Well slap me silly, how could I forget THE OMEN? It scared the ever living shit out of me.

  36. Don’t forget the Christmas comedy. I repeat, “You know I like the rough stuff, don’t you, Frank?”.

    Richard Donner was very much A-Ok in my book.

  37. Like I always said, it’s crazy how a director, who made so many bonafide classics and a bunch of at least very entertaining movies, never became a marquee name like Spielberg or Zemeckis.

  38. R.I.P. but I’m more impressed with the life he lead than sad for what no longer is. To go from directing the second MAN FROM UNCLE episode to pretty much inventing the superhero film and defining the buddy cop genre and directing a beloved kids movie that might actually have endured beyond all of that and have lived for 91 years is pretty good going.

    It seems like there might be a pretty good “Club 91” forming, I remember a few years ago Harry Dean Stanton, Jerry Lewis and Hugh Hefner (not the greatest guy IMO but undeniably someone with a huge pop culture footprint) all died at that age and now Donner has been added to the list.

  39. Borg9: Thing is, SCROOGED never quite worked for me. Bill Murray just seemed like he was trying too hard, which is the last thing one ever associates with Murray.

  40. Oh shit! Slap me twice! How could I leave out a personal Donner favorite? LADYHAWKE!!!!!!!!

  41. “it’s crazy how a director, who made so many bonafide classics and a bunch of at least very entertaining movies, never became a marquee name like Spielberg or Zemeckis.”

    True dat!

    I have the same feeling about John Badham. Look at his CV: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, WAR GAMES, SHORT CIRCUIT, BLUE THUNDER, STAKEOUT, THE HARD WAY. A couple of stone cold classics there. How is this guy not talked about more? Even his lesser works are so eminently watchable like MEL GIBSON: FUGITIVE, WESLEY SNIPES: SKYDIVER, JOHNNY DEPP: ACTION HERO AND BRIDGET FONDA: NIKITA

  42. I’m having one hell of a Random ’90s Day here (WILD BILL, DANTE’S PEAK, ID4), so I guess I’ll do up one of Donner’s ’90s movies that I missed: MAVERICK. Huh, two Westerns and two disaster flicks. How on earth do I follow that up, haha?!?

    And put me down in the pro-SCROOGED camp. There’s just too much good stuff in there to just write it off. My favorite is “If you…TOUCH me again, I’m gonna rip your god damn wings off.” Personally, I don’t think there’s such a thing as Bill Murray trying too hard. The more the Murray-er!

  43. I’m not writing it off, just saying if my Desert Island Bill Murray DVD selection offered STRIPES, GROUNDHOG DAY and SCROOGED, but I could only pick 2, SCROOGED would be the easiest to leave behind.

  44. Love LADYHAWKE, but hate the music they used.

  45. What, no Garfield? Given that selection KayKay, I’d probably make the same choice, but mostly because I couldn’t bear not to have Warren Oates and John Candy on the island with me. Or do they get their own categories?

    I’m not gonna be the guy who doesn’t like GROUNDHOG DAY – it’s a miracle of a romcom with a brilliant screenplay that set the rules for an entire subgenre and is always watchable – but GROUNDHOG DAY is Murray’s show, whereas SCROOGED has lots of funny people being funny. I’ve clearly stated my position on Carol Kane, but if you like Bobcat Goldthwait, and I do, he’s good in SCROOGED, and even Robert Mitchum and David Johansen are funny (or is the idea of Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past just inherently funny?). Yes, it’s all Donner’s idea of funny, big, loud and slapsticky, with Murray being very Murray, as you say, but it works for me. The only person doing very much in GROUNDHOG DAY other than Murray is Stephen Tobolowsky, although the youth of Michael Shannon never fails to raise a smile.

  46. The Alan Pacman Project

    July 7th, 2021 at 2:11 am

    I’d normally come in here on my horse and defend the honour of a good idiosyncratic synth score, but LADYWAKE? Well, I can’t ride anyway.

  47. Donner had an impressive production under his belt. But I doubt he was very proud of THE TOY and TWINKY. I read once that disagreed with Bronson on the latter. I wonder who won?

  48. I recall the THE TOY being quite entertaining. It just got buried under a lot of hand-wringing about racism. But this movie would have got massacred on social media today, assuming it would even be greenlit.

    Just the fact that Donner has a Lolita-style film with Charles Bronson as a middle-aged author of porn novels(!) in his CV makes his effortless genre-hopping even more amazing

  49. And I realized an old Buddy Comedy with Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr that I caught on TV ages ago, SALT AND PEPPER is directed by Donner! Lawford-Davis Jr team-up, a precursor to the Gibson-Glover pairing 2 decades later? Fascinating.


    July 7th, 2021 at 5:06 am

    Yes Alan Pacman, the score was jarring, but apparently Donner, who was falling in love with his wife Lauren Shuler during filming, loved it, so will give this Hopeless Romantic a pass.

  51. Borg9, I’m probably re-purposing Murray’s performance in light of information that it was a difficult shoot (a Murray specialty) and he was under tremendous pressure to carry the movie as it’s main lead when his previous ones were largely ensemble efforts. I’m sure I still have the DVD maybe I’ll dig it out for another spin. My Donner retrospective is pretty long overdue anyway.

  52. I just watched this one with the kids in my family. It’s been years since I’ve seen it. I can see what Vern means about the kids being annoying but it didn’t bother me that much. My niece’s husband said he was surprised and impressed that the movie works as well as it does considering it’s just kids screaming at each other broken up by scenes of exposition. I’m not sure if he’s counting the action scenes as part of the kids screaming at each other, or was just referring to the parts separate from the action.

    One thing that I keep thinking about is that small, simple moment where Mikey is on the porch feeling sad and Brand comes out and opens his arms and Mikey runs to him and they stand there hugging for a minute. It’s touching and I’m a little surprised such a tender moment between boys was included in an 80s movie. Of course it has to turn into a headlock, but I really appreciated it.

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