The Goonies – 25 Years Later

June 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Entertainment

“Ye…intruders beware…crushing death and grief…soaked with blood…of the trespassing thief.”

How many times have you said this, in that totally awesome Fakey British Accent just like Corey Feldman as “Mouth” in “The Goonies”? If you grew up between the years 1985-1990, you know these words by heart. You probably know half the movie, if not all of it, by heart. It was a defining “kids” movie of the mid 80’s that still lives on as one of my favorites of all time.

What sets it apart for me as a great film compared to a lot of other “kid gang adventure” movies is that this one has a lot of heart; and not only doesn’t spend its running time showing off kids talking in their lingo and being against their parents but the whole plot revolves around a group of foul-mouthed kids who want nothing more than to help their parents. They want to save the Goon Docks, a little neighborhood tucked away in the rainy, gray skies of coastal Astoria, Oregon.

My friends and I wanted to be The Goonies. Of course, we didn’t have to save our neighborhood. None of us had a Spanish speaking cleaning lady who had to beware of cockroaches and live without food or water if she didn’t comply with orders. Also, none of us, unfortunately, lived near a legendary pirate ship carrying thousands of “rich stuff”.

This was the kind of adventure every boy dreams of, hopefully before they get to 16. In the wide-eyed days of 1985, when we were younger, it was still possible to dream that something like this could happen. This movie was incredibly fun, even with the lame typical mafia-is-after-us subplot. I mean, I guess kids movies always have to have a bumbling group of darkly dressed “burglars” or whatever chasing them. At least this one had a young Joey Pants, and the fight over Pepperoni Pizza was funny. And of course, no one can forget Ma Fratelli who utters the famous line, “Kids suck”. But still, I don’t think there’s a kid’s story out there like this one that doesn’t involve some bumbling mafia guys or some lame government plot that only kids can bust wide open.

I like that the Fratellis never steal the spotlight from the Goonies themselves. Their story is even amusing sometimes, and endearing because of Ma’s deformed progeny, named “Sloth”. Plus, the Fratellis are actually dangerous, unlike most other bumbling villains in kids’ movies. We’re introduced to them breaking out of a prison and murdering someone, stuffing the corpse in a freezer at a seasonal restaurant that’s closed. Well, that’s not totally true–the restaurant is somewhat open. But all they serve is pinkish colored water and tongue.

The Goonies realize that what’s important about the restaurant is that underneath is a cave that does, indeed, lead to the pirate’s treasure. The infamous One-Eyed Willie. But along the way, Sloth joins the group, the Fratellis follow them through the tunnels and the booty traps (that’s Booby traps!), and of course there’s a climax where they’re all on the pirate ship itself.



I was first introduced to this movie through a family friend who was talking to my twin sister about it when we were visiting them down in Slidell, Louisiana. She told us about this movie about a pirate and a bunch of kids, and the pirate was named One-Eyed Willie and he had a patch over his eye. It sounded scary to me, and I didn’t really hear much more about it after that. That was because at the time my family and I were living in one of the most remote towns in the country…Lyon’s Falls in Upstate New York. I was surprised that in my second grade class, the student body was invited to a screening of “The Karate Kid”. But nothing about “The Goonies”.

It wasn’t until 1986, a year after it being released, that I finally got to see the movie. Living in Atlanta, Georgia, and surrounded by neighbors who all had kids me and my sister’s age whom had all seen the movie, it was only a matter of time before I finally got to myself. My next door neighbor, whose hobbies including setting fire to things and copying movies he rented onto blank VHS tapes, let me borrow a copy of it. I was hooked from the first viewing. I identified with its main protagonist, Mikey, and some of my friends around the neighborhood resembled the kids in the movie. I wasn’t nearly as brave or cunning as Mikey, and I didn’t have asthma or braces; but I had a bowl hair cut and I was about his height, I think. I liked quoting Mikey.

“Down here it’s our time… it’s our time down here.”

My friends and I had little adventures of our own. There was an abandoned barn down at the end of a street in our neighborhood that was spooky and old. Naturally, we explored it. There was also a field and a forest behind it. I always wanted to imagine what was beyond…I found out later that it was a Seven Eleven. But at age 8, that’s still pretty cool.

Pizza...? Shhh! Pepperoni...? Shhh!

Pizza…? Shhh! Pepperoni…? Shhh!

The movie shaped my childhood, along with other adventure movies like “Explorers”, “The NeverEnding Story”, “The Dark Crystal”, “Labyrinth”, and “The Goonies” famous rip-off, “The Monster Squad”. Throughout my teenage years I didn’t watch it much. I was over all of that, and I had to give it a break. I think I had watched it 20-30 times during the years of ‘86 and ‘91.

But probably about 8 years ago, around the time when it started to be “cool” to think back on the 80’s (VH1 really went to town with all of that…they sure Loved the 80’s…), I really missed this movie. I still had a clamshell VHS tape (those always made me feel weird, because it just seemed baby proofed or something) and I popped it in and watched it. It really made me ache for my childhood again. I couldn’t watch it for years after that.

For whatever reason, “The Goonies” is still a little painful for me because it’s such a reminder of a wonderful time in my life that’s long over. Sounds strange, but it’s like revisiting the grave of my youth. I don’t know if kids nowadays are introduced to “The Goonies”, but even if they are, it’s not the same. “The Goonies” came out in the middle of the 80’s, when it started to define itself as a decade and date itself. There are elements of the movie that are incredibly dated. The clothing (Mouth’s Member’s Only jacket), Stef’s insanely large glasses, Chunk’s Hawaiian shirt and plaid pants (when was that ever popular?) and of course…the music. Some of the songs they listen to are just brutally 80’s teen rock ditties I’m sure were sellers back in ‘85. But now, they just sound bad. Fun bad, but bad.

This past weekend marked the 25th Anniversary of “The Goonies”. AMC was showing it throughout the weekend. Twenty-five years. It’s pretty hard to think about that. When I was growing up I still remember thinking the 25th Anniversary of “Psycho” meant “it’s old”. Now “The Goonies” is in that class. It’s old. It’s a by-gone era. The Silver Anniversary. It’s just not fair. It should never be considered an old movie–but it is. I just listed reasons why, too. But I don’t want to accept it! I don’t want to accept that I’m old!

OK, I had to get that out of the way.

The DVD release, while not providing a true widescreen presentation (ahem), was a real treat. The commentary track featuring the cast and director was so nice to watch along with revisiting the movie. It was like catching up with old friends. OK yeah, we weren’t really friends. But I made so many connections with these characters, that’s what they felt like. And apparently, these kids formed friendships on the set as well, so it was a real reunion for them as well. It was cute to see, and it’s a cute movie.

Everything from Data’s Pinches of Power to his father telling him in his native Chinese “You are my greatest invention”; Chunk getting his favorite pizza (Domino’s?!?) from his mom and telling Sloth that he loves him; Mouth and Stef sharing a moment; and, the hottie cheerleader Andy telling Mikey he’s a good kisser.

Ah, the Truffle Shuffle!

Ah, the Truffle Shuffle!

With more viewings of the movie, more things just become so darn cute about it. Data’s rant when he falls down the stairs is really hilarious. Mouth’s “I’m taking them all back” soliloquy moves me. And I just think it’s funny that Jake Fratelli makes up a story (presumably?) about going to the Bronx Zoo; and then tells Sloth a story (most definitely true) that they spent money meant to fix his broken teeth on brother Francis’ toupee. There are a lot of little things that just come out of nowhere that add to how great this movie is.

Sure, there’s vulgarity that caused some tidal waves from parent groups back when it came out; but even Ebert said these kids sounded “like real kids”. Of course that meant to him that he couldn’t follow what they were talking about. But we, of course, followed it perfectly. Even when they contracted themselves. Contra…contradicted themselves. We just didn’t want to dictate…or delude ourselves.

Happy Twenty-Fifth, “The Goonies”. You’re still good enough.

The Balcony Is Closed: A Look Back On “At The Movies”

May 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Entertainment

Growing up, I loved movies. I guess that’s evident here. I’ve been “reviewing” movies since 1989–something I didn’t realize till a few years ago when I dug up my old journals from elementary school and found that the unused pages in the binder were dedicated to reviewing movies such as “Arachnophobia”, “Willow”, and “The Abyss”. I used a star system, 1-4. It was hard being a critic at age 11, I found. I pretty much liked everything I saw, unless it was something I didn’t understand. I gave “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” 2 stars because at the time I found it “weird and kind of boring”. Later, obviously, I understood how great it was. I thought I knew everything at 10 years old. How naive I was not to think that you know everything by 16.

But my inspirations for such aspirations as being something as spectacular and rewarding as a film critic were Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert; the stars of the CBS Saturday early evening special “At The Movies”. The show eventually moved to the mornings, but I had first started watching them in 1985 when my dad would sit me down on the couch in upstate New York and convince me this was a fun show. I just saw two guys yelling at each other about movies I’d never heard of like “Prizzi’s Honor”. One guy was thin, the other guy was fat. But the two grew on me, and throughout the years, I started following their show more.

In the late 80’s, when I myself became a film reviewer, I paid more attention to their show. I especially liked their specials that dealt with giving Hollywood some pointers. They liked to think they had an impact on the industry. Perhaps they did. “Memo: To The Academy” became one of my favorite features because it focused on the more obscure talents of Hollywood that would never get a whiff at the Academy Awards–which as we all know, is the ONLY awards show worth watching. Why? Because it’s hosted by Billy Crystal. That’s why.

Well, the 90’s saw my inner critic grow. I began keeping my own journal of movie reviews. Most of the movies I saw were on cable at the time; I didn’t get to see a lot of movies in the theatre. But, I can tell you this–“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” received 4 stars. They were just flawless films. What was interesting was that I gave “Dances With Wolves” only 3 stars. I distinctly remember the running time being a fatal flaw in the film. I’d still give it a thumb’s up–sure. But did my butt need to suffer through so many sequences of  subtitles and scene after scene of buffalo chasing? I found more solace in “Cameron’s Closet”–a film I gave 3 and a half stars. The review ran thusly: “This movie scared me. I thought it was great.”

Now that’s journalism. If I had really thought I had a chance at professionally writing film reviews, I guess I should have pursued it. But of course, I was a modest chap. I just really liked watching movies. I loved the smell of a movie theatre. The scents of stale popcorn, crusty carpets, and that ubiquitous butter smell that permeated the walls. I loved the strange creepiness of the darkness that shrouded the entire theatre. I’d sometimes look around the theatre to find those entirely black areas, and wonder if a ghost was there haunting it. And if that ghost would haunt me.

I loved watching the previews. Movie trailers in some cases are better than the actual movie itself. Like “Red Eye”. Can you think of a better example of a movie trailer OUTDOING the movie in such a way that “Red Eye” did? I didn’t think so. Shut up, I said I didn’t think so. And I’m right.

I loved all aspects of moviegoing. In fact, I included that in my review of “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country”. I admitted that I didn’t pay attention to the movie, but I absolutely loved how the EXIT sign looked so cool. So distant, and yet…inviting. Not because I didn’t like the movie–as I said, I didn’t really pay attention to it. Except for Kim Cattrell. She was quite attractive in it. And me being a Star Trek fan in general, I immediately liked it. But something about that EXIT sign. I don’t know. It really grabbed me. It made me want to stand up and cheer. It was outstanding. It was Oscar worthy.

I really thought of those two as my pals. Or at least, they were my intellectual equals. But really, Siskel and Ebert provided something that no one had ever done before; they were televised critics. Critics had always been subjugated to the written word on cheaply rendered paper. Now we were getting criticisms through that warm blue glow of a television screen. Really worked wonders.

And Siskel and Ebert were entertaining. Did I always agree? No. I didn’t like “Benji: The Hunted”. I didn’t hate  “North”. But they had so much heart. I believe both Gene & Roger just *loved* movies. Loved them to the point where they lived and breathed film. You can see it like lightning when they talk. Watch the old reviews they did. Whether they liked or disliked a film. They were passionate about it. Siskel with his baggy and deeply wounded eyes when he loathed a film, and his cautioning fingers; his thumb touching his forefinger as if he were orchestrating a symphony of criticism through his own hands. Ebert with his gaze and flailing arms, his loud voice. Ebert was the loud; but Siskel was the real assassin. Roger had a pomposity that outweighed Siskel’s subtle demeanor. But both were deadly with their words, and thoughts.

Ebert always seemed more sensationalized; although I believe if he were ever to read this, he’d argue that he was the “sensible” one. It was Siskel that was overbearing.

When Gene Siskel died in February of 1999, “At The Movies” went with it. Roger made an admirable effort to keep the show alive, even including an intellectual inferior critic such as Richard Roeper (whom I love dearly!!). But this show had such vitality at its prime and even collected some Hollywood ears on the eves of those 80’s and 90’s when it seemed as though film franchises went down like Pepsi and french fries. Their criticisms of “Colorizing the Classics” made a difference; it was discontinued soon after. Their exposure of “Video Nasties” brought the controversy  and regulation of the “Faces of Death” series into the mainstream. They criticized the controversial introduction of the PG-13 rating and said it was inconsistent and didn’t solve the problem of PG to R (brought on by the release of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” that was rated PG; but the bug scene was considered far too intense for a PG rating).

But mostly, it was their adamant demand of Hollywood to please us that was so honest. It was true. These were not two ideologues paid to be sensational and over the top. These were two men who absolutely loved film. Their hearts melted for films like “Shakespeare in Love” and “Schindler’s List”. Their teeth gritted through movies like “The Squeeze” (although Roger Ebert admitted to forgetting he saw it) and “Black Sheep” (the only film that Gene Siskel has ever walked out of while a professional critic).  They spoke of “getting a cup of coffee” and talking about “The Truman Show”, and hating big picture big shots for stooping to such lows like Stallone in “Judge Dredd” and Demi Moore in “Striptease”. They didn’t just break down Hollywood–they wanted it to be better. They knew it was better.

Siskel once called out Eddie Murphy for “A Vampire In Brooklyn” and told him to be a supporting character in a film directed by a great director. It was like they had a lifeline into the vein of Hollywood itself.

That voice is gone now. It is merely a ghostly relic of a time that’s passed. We don’t have TV movie critics anymore. Part of that is due to the internet. Any worthless University of Delaware drop out can be a film critic these days. And actually like the remake of “Halloween”. Yes. Somehow, it happened. The art of film criticism is a dead one these days.

Roger Ebert still punches out his columns. He’s still passionate about films. . He’s still a vital writer. But he’s seen the best days of his life go. He can’t dictate the screen like he did when he was with Gene back in “At The Movies”. But there was a time when the two of them held Hollywood by the balls, and it was wonderful. Not just because it could be done; but because it was the right people that could do it.

Roger and Gene were the essence of what criticism is, and that is love and honesty. And we rarely see either of those in media these days.

The balcony has closed. You can still find some of their reviews on YouTube. Watching them  makes me miss them both. And, makes me feel lucky that I got to see it when it mattered.

To look at most of their reviews going all the way back to 1986, visit this website to relive some “At The Movies” movie reviews: