Goonies Never Say Die

Warner Bros./Amblin

Growing up as a child without cable (I know, we did exist!), there were three recorded-from-television movies in my parents’ collection that quickly made it into my weekend rotation: 1977’s Star Wars, 1985’s The Goonies, and 1986’s Ruthless People. There might have even been a taped copy of 1984’s The Ghostbusters mixed in, but the other three were my standard go-to flicks when there wasn’t anything worth watching on television.

In particular, The Goonies was a family favorite – likely because my parents saw it on their first baby-less date night after I was born, and every viewing brought back some fun memories for them (I just thought it was a cool movie). I also remember it being the only movie soundtrack that we had on cassette tape and the three of us would rock out to Cyndi Lauper and the Goon Squad on long family car trips. And it didn’t hurt that I thought Francis Fratelli, played by Joe Pantoliano, looked a lot like my dad. 

But while I regularly watched Mikey, Brand, Chunk, Mouth, Data, Andy, Stef, and Sloth run around the “Goon Docks,” I recently discovered that not everyone has seen this classic coming-of-age tale/hunt for buried treasure. In fact, I was shocked to learn last week that my best guy friend S has never seen The Goonies – I thought it was mandatory viewing for us 1980s babies!* So, in honor of the movie’s 30th anniversary on Sunday, I decided to take a trip back in time and revisit one of my favorite childhood films!

If, like S, you have never seen The Goonies, the plot is relatively simple: With their homes in Astoria, Oregon facing foreclosure, a group of friends calling themselves “Goonies” (Mikey, Chunk, Mouth, and Data) gathers for one last weekend together. While rummaging through Mikey’s parents’ attic, the boys discover an old treasure map and decide to see if they can follow it to the hidden pirate riches and save their houses. Brand, Mikey’s older brother, pursues them in an effort to stop this latest adventure, and is eventually joined by two classmates, Andy – his crush – and Stef – her best friend. Along the way, they cross paths with a family of criminals, the Fratellis, who are running a counterfeiting operation, but decide to follow the Goonies when they learn buried treasure is what the kids are after. Inevitably, hijinks ensue.

While most people think of Sloth – the younger, disfigured Fratelli who plays a significant role in the movie’s ending – when they remember The Goonies, I always think of the incredible booby traps that the pirate, One-Eyed Willy, used to protect his treasure. I especially love the first trap that Mikey sets off because the film sequence is just so spectacular; it really shows you all of the different steps that go from Point A to Point Z and makes Willy a forerunner of Rube Goldberg. And who could forget the skeleton organ?! That was one creepy, but impressive, set piece! (As the Mysterious Mr. C said the other day, “I wonder who had to put that together?!”)

But The Goonies was a lot more than just spectacle: It had a really good script and told a really fun tale! Interestingly though, the taped version that I grew up with was of the “edited for length” variety, and so it wasn’t until I got my mother a copy of the DVD for Christmas a good two decades or so later that I realized two scenes had been cut out. Personally, I liked my version better – I didn’t think the extra scenes added that much, though they did explain a few references – but I am most definitely biased!

Regardless of which version happens to be playing, watching The Goonies is like catching up with an old friend. It’s been with me through thick and thin, has always stayed the same, and when we reconnect, it’s like no time has passed at all. So while I won’t be at the four-day celebration in Astoria this weekend, I “sointenly” will be enjoying a strawberry milkshake and doing the Truffle Shuffle along with everyone else!

* An earlier version of this post also accused S of comparing The Goonies and The Sandlot. The reference came from a Gchat conversation and after S protested and I looked things over, it appears that we had a failure to communicate. I thought the offending comment was related to the plots of the two movies, but it was actually in reference to something else. This post has since been amended and I wholeheartedly apologize to S for mischaracterizing his comments. That said, I still think should see The Goonies at some point.

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