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THE GOONIES

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Jonathan Ke Quan, Martha Plimpton, Joe Pantoliano
Director:  Richard Donner
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 2.0 (English, French), Dolby 1.0 (Spanish)
Video:  2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Subtitles:  English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  114 minutes
Release Date:  August 28, 2001

“Goonies never say die!

Film ***1/2

Following the overnight popularity of 1978's classic Superman: The Movie and its sequel, director Richard Donner went on to demonstrate that he could master almost any genre, roaring into the eighties with everything from comedies (Richard Pryor's The Toy), taut action films (Lethal Weapon), to even a twisted new spin on a classic Christmas tale (Scrooged).  In between it all though, he also directed a modest adventure film called The Goonies.   

Revisiting the film sixteen years after its inception, I nervously wondered if the film would still hold the same magic that it had when I was running around in pj's and carrying a lunchbox.  Would fashion mistakes (pretty much anything the cast is wearing), or cheesy sets and effects, in our now CGI laden films, make The Goonies nothing more than a dated cult classic?  While the film isn't flawless in the above departments, thankfully, as does Back to the Future (which coincidentally came out a month later that same summer), The Goonies, like a fine wine, has managed to keep its flavor with age.   

Like many films of the eighties, The Goonies is a reaction to, or backlash against, the values of the so-called  “era of greed.”

Unfortunately for the residents of Astoria, Oregon, progress has arrived at the gates of their beach community.  A lucrative country club and golf course has been planned for the area where their houses currently are.  Despite the residents' protests, the owners delight in seeing the trouble they've caused, rubbing their hands together and dreaming of how much money the new golf course will bring in. 

Lamenting that he and his gang of friends (“The Goonies”) will be torn apart, Mikey (Astin), desperately tries to devise a way his father can pay his bills and save the town.  Discovering an old pirate's treasure map in his father's attic, Mikey, the leader of the rag tag bunch, convinces his friends that he has just been handed the key to saving their town: they must find the treasure.  So the adventure begins.   

To my surprise, The Goonies has been quite a coveted title, often appearing on the top ten lists of many DVD fans.  The explanation?  The film is probably a little different for everyone, but at its core, captures the awe and mystery of many great adventure films.  The story really isn't that complicated, but it permits the actors to breathe their own life into the story. 

For The Goonies, this is works as the ensemble cast is full of talented actors who are likeable and have motivations that are easy to identify with.  With a reluctant, grammatically challenged leader, a sarcastic smartass, a loveable eating machine, a quirky inventor, a confident jock, a smitten cheerleader, and a bespectacled cynic, it's hard not to find someone to empathize with in this crew of misfits. 

In conclusion, this is one of my favorite Donner films and, with his body of work, that's saying a lot.  With smart dialogue from Gremlins writer Chris Columbus, good pacing, a winning cast, and great direction, this one'll still be a popular favorite for another sixteen years. 

Video ***

Quickly turning over the DVD box I breathed a sigh of relief.  Unlike their upcoming “Family Release” of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Goonies is not a dreaded “pan and scan” release.

Richard Donner's theatrical vision has remained intact and free of marring in this decent anamorphic transfer.  I noticed no problems with color bleeding or edge enhancement.  The only time the film seemed to show its age was during some of the darker cave scenes, where the grain becomes slightly apparent on the shadows.  This transfer shouldn't disappoint fans or newcomers.        

Audio ***

I wasn't expecting too much here due to the film's age.  Thankfully, the track is actually quite involving.  The opening exhibits loud use of bass, as prisoners are let out of morning lock down.  Throughout the film, there are some great uses of directionality, and the film's lively score dances throughout the speakers.  While this is a mostly dialogue driven track, it generally performs when needed, especially every once and a while when the .1LFE crashes loudly through the surrounds.   

Supplements ***1/2

First up is my favorite feature on this disc, a commentary with director Richard Donner and all of The Goonies' children.  The track is probably one of the best I've ever heard, with the cast of kids and Donner offering up personal stories and insight about the film, as well as ragging on each others' and their own performances.  This is truly an amazing addition, which I hope the upcoming Willy Wonka release will emulate.  Adding to that, the film occasionally minimizes, so you can watch the commentators and see their reactions to what's going on.  This was an especially impressive feature, as you get to see what the kids turned out to look like from adolescence (isn't everyone curious how that kid from Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom turned out?). 

Next up is the Cyndi Lauper music video The Goonies R' Good Enough.  At over twelve minutes long, this plays like a whacked-out eighties acid trip, with everything from dancing pirates, a petty Arab stereotype, Steven Spielberg, and even the now deceased “Andre the Giant,” jumping into the mix with Cyndi and the cast of the film.  While this will entertain diehard fans of the film, as for me, I am highly disturbed and now need a prescription of Zanex.  

After that is the full frame Making of The Goonies.”  While this isn't the typical backslapping featurette, in that it's somewhat enjoyable, it certainly is out there.  Also included are the much sought after Outtakes.  For some reason, just as with Back to the Future, there are a few versions of this film available.  When it aired on TV in the US, a lot of scenes were taken out, such as when the kids leave the house on their bikes, and drop in on the local drug store where Mikey discovers how to follow the map, and the local bully burns part of the map.  Finally, these scenes, and the now notorious (and highly over the top) “Octopus scene,” fans have desired, is incorporated.

Rounding out the disc is the film's trailer and a cast and crew list.  This package should easily please the Goonie fans and is a solid job by Warner. 

Summary:

A must-have based on the film's merits alone; this is a classic not to be missed in your collection.  Recommended.