Today I watched Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985)
In an economically depressed part of the Oregon coast, a group of young boys fight the blues caused by a forthcoming foreclosure, which will split them apart, with one last adventure. Led by the courageous Mikey, they follow a treasure map that they found in an attic which supposedly leads to pirate treasure. Unfortunately the map leads through a run down restaurant which happens to be occupied by a criminal trio known as The Fratellis, who also have a caged mutant brother. Through equal parts blunder and bravery they push on and into a warren of booby trapped underground caves which contain a pirate treasure which is not only cool, but could save their neighborhood from gentrification.
The Goonies is perhaps the premier example of what kid friendly adventure films were like in the 80’s, in that the tropes that typify the period are stronger here than anywhere else I have seen them. These films of boyish adventure pushed the envelope of what is acceptable in a film targeting kids, there is swearing, violence, death, and numerous references to drugs and sex. Like I said, this film pushes these ideas to an extreme, I don’t think you could make a kid’s film grittier than this in any era, it’s got some really extreme stuff in it.
Because of that, I think the film rewards young viewers. It introduces concepts that it’s target audience would only be on the cusp of understanding and serves to create curiosity despite it’s world getting as dark as it does. This film is driven by a sense of adventure and hopefulness, both of which are totally infectious. It presents kids with a world that can be disturbing and grim, but is asking to be explored and will reward such behavior richly. Thus the film presents a solid message about just going for it and attacking life with passion, plus all the classic friendship parables that these movies are required to have of course.
Perhaps then the only spot of tarnish on it is it’s use of racial stereotypes and 80’s sexual politics. But it is a film of it’s time, today’s kids have today’s movies, this is a piece of the past and should be enjoyed as such, it’s for yesterday’s kids and those who want to understand them. Sure you can show this to your kid, I’m not trying to say it’s unsuitable, but it would be worth talking about those issues along with the ones the movie brings up intentionally. 5/5