I probably shouldn’t be writing about THE GOONIES. Not now.
I almost wasn’t going to. I mean, no one is looking around at the horrific swan dive into a dictatorship and terrifying carnage besetting the Black community or wanton dehumanization of so many people and thought, “if only someone would write about the 35th anniversary of THE GOONIES! Ah tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
And the fucking weird part is that I volunteered to write about it. But then basically told Editor Jon Abrams “…I may not write about THE GOONIES.” Of course, Jon Abrams is Jon Fuckin’ Abrams, so he replied telling me to write it if it’s helpful, don’t if it’s not. The world needs more Jon Abramses in it.
(Also the world needs more people to give to causes helping Black Lives Matter in this ongoing crisis)
The frivolity of THE GOONIES or any of this stuff is stupid (and possibly grotesque) compared to squadrons of police instigating violence and beating up the old, the young, the pregnant, the peaceful, and groups of people who have had to put up with all of this shit since before they were even in this world. That’s not even mentioning the still very real threat of COVID-19.
Like I said, I wasn’t going to write this. I love the movie. My friend, Keith Doughty, and I wrote a bunch of a musical based on THE GOONIES. Here are some songs:
But with everything else happening…why write about it? To be honest, I’m not really going to write about THE GOONIES. Well, I am and I’m not.
The 1985 film directed by Richard Donner (THE OMEN, LADYHAWKE, LETHAL WEAPON, SCROOGED, SUPERMAN), written by Chris Columbus (who penned GREMLINS and directed HOME ALONE) from a story by producer Steven Spielberg has been a hit since it came out. It was on constant rotation in my family’s VCR for years.
For some reason, Jeff Cohen as Chunk saying “Dead things, Mikey; dead things” became an oft-repeated line in my household with my sisters and parents. That Cyndi Lauper song will get stuck in your head, with a video featuring Rowdy Roddy Piper, many other wrestlers, and the incredible cast.
I also get why people don’t like it—especially if they didn’t grow up with it and watch it as adults. It relies on broad humor for fat jokes, not to mention how Data is handled (still a step up from TEMPLE OF DOOM, though—Ke Huy Quan is allowed to speak in non-sentence fragments this time!), those Latin maid scenes probably aren’t totally cool, and the whole Sloth…issue.
The Goonies on set with their teacher, Rhoda C. Fine.
(I’m taking a bit of a summer break so tweets will be more sparse than usual.) pic.twitter.com/OjsCZRGqAs
— Tales from Weirdland (@WeirdlandTales) May 31, 2020
There’s a lot of shrill kid screaming. No real coherent plot structure with a lot of repetitive story beats. I found the NES game The Goonies 2 to be basically impossible. Never finished it. How does it end? Does the mermaid ever pay off? I’ll probably Google it when I’m not sleeping again this week.
And while I love the song, I can admit that “The Goonies ‘R Good Enough” is one of Ms. Lauper’s lesser hits. (I ride or die for “All Through The Night” — history will vindicate me!) Also imagine if they had left in that octopus scene? On top of gangsters, booby traps, a developmentally challenged superhuman, crazy inventions, AND Corey Feldman? Just too much.
But I still dig THE GOONIES. It was even pretty exciting seeing that recent Josh Gad video where he united them all amidst the pandemic.
THE GOONIES resonated with me not solely because of all of that massive talent of ‘80s and ‘90s filmmaking behind the camera. And not only by having a cast that includes the star of WHITE WATER SUMMER (I fucking love that film), MANIAC COP 2’s Robert Davi, a young Thanos, ROBOT IN THE FAMILY‘s Joe Pantoliano, one of the top 5 Plimptons (easily) with Martha, a Frog brother, and fellow Vassar alum and enchanter of the Other Corey in LUCAS, Kerri Green (Go Brewers!).
But the reason the silly kids fight gangsters for pirate treasure flick adhered itself to my psyche is the type of story it was telling. When I was quite young I loved THE MONSTER SQUAD, X-Men comics, The B.R.A.T. Patrol (also starring Sean Astin), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS (in TV format so I missed out on so much boob and gore for so long), GHOSTBUSTERS, Christopher Pike books, THE GOONIES, THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles Of Prydain, and more.
I wrote about this before when talking about Stranger Things (which featured Sean Astin…guys, I may have had a crush on Sean Astin for like 35 years and never realized it). The Netflix hit is more of a throwback to a style of storytelling than just I Love The ‘80s cut scenes with mediocre CGI. These are all tales about outcasts that have a close bond with each other and work together to accomplish impossible and great things.
I’ve always been drawn to monsters because they are cool looking manifestations of imagination. But also probably because I always felt weird and awkward, and it seemed I never fit in or was well-liked. I had friends and my mom said I was cool, but I just never believed it and always felt like I didn’t belong. In retrospect this was prologue to my depression, anxiety, and laundry list of psychological “not greats!”—but I had no idea of that at the time.
So that love for monsters extends into stories like THE GOONIES where I see that fellowship can be created amongst people who may not even particularly like each other in order to take down those that would do harm. They went on cool adventures and were all into different things, but ultimately won through having each other’s backs and complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And Mikey has an inhaler! *I* have an inhaler!
While the most quoted line is “Goonies never say die,” I prefer “It’s our time down here!” For those unfamiliar — which, god bless you; you have read a lot of rambling around a movie you don’t know about—the lovable scamps of soon-to-be cast out outcasts are subterranean as they evade murderous gangsters the Fratellis while seeking the treasure of One-Eyed Wily (may need to add that name to the “problematic pile” above).
When they go up, they will inevitably go their own separate ways. They will be told what to do by parents and teachers and cops that refuse to listen to them. Their homes won’t be their homes anymore.
It’s an inversion of the Morlocks and the Eloi from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine: Instead of occasionally going above ground to kidnap some fair-haired folk, they escape to the underground for a period of time and that’s how they are able to sustain their group, keep their homes, and ultimately find a jeweler who will buy some antique gems (that are probably evidence for the numerous crimes committed) at a reasonable price and at a fast pace in order to pay the undisclosed amount to keep their homes. THE GOONIES!!!
I am emphatically NOT equating one of the whitest, corporate-produced films from the Reagan-era like THE GOONIES to the Black Lives Matter movement. At all. But I am saying that these types of stories are important and pervasive in all cultures. Maybe it wasn’t THE GOONIES for you, but COOL RUNNINGS, The Lord Of The Rings, The Baby-Sitters Club, SEVEN SAMURAI, CRY-BABY, The Hunger Games, STAR WARS, CHASING AMY, BILLY ELLIOT, Hamilton, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, or tales from The Bible, The Talmud, or the Qur’an, or whatever else. We are lousy with tales of unlikely heroes, overlooked under-appreciated by the powers that be, accomplishing something great. The stories we tell ourselves shape how we see this world and impart on us facts both literal and eternal.
But this moment is time for us wonder if we’ll take these tales and tropes that have been with our society since its dawn and put them into practice or if we’ll simply take Troy’s bucket and return to the world we knew. It can be our time here. You can be the hero that others admire and tell stories about. THE GOONIES isn’t a stirring wake-up call to action, but it is emblematic of the myths and beliefs we tell ourselves all the time, especially in America, that misfits make change and just because we aren’t rich, or cool, or look like others, or act like others, doesn’t mean we can’t be the ones that help make this world better for all, including ourselves.
This is why I decided to write about this when everything is going to shit. Why, from 4:17 AM to 7:09 AM, I have been working on this post about the anniversary of 1985’s THE GOONIES. I’m not saying watch it now to feel better about the world or that things are going to work out and we save the Goondocks and the bad guys go to jail. But this is a story, like many stories in fiction and real life, of strange allies overcoming improbable odds in order to declare and reclaim their homes.
It’s what I desperately wanted in my life when I was young. Hell, it’s what I desperately want in my life now at 38.
THE GOONIES isn’t some radical uprising manifesto and it certainly has many flaws, but it is something to show kids so they know that they will find their people one day, no matter what anyone says or does. They won’t have a map to guide them through all of the danger, but they will have each other. That’s the rich stuff.
Again: please give to these causes to support Black Lives Matter and please stay safe.
And because I mentioned it already—ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Cyndi Lauper:
Tags: 1985, Anne Ramsey, Chris Columbus, corey feldman, Cyndi Lauper, Joe Pantoliano, John Matuszak, josh brolin, Ke Huy Quan, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Richard Donner, Robert Davi, Sean Astin, Steven Spielberg, The Goonies