I am not, by nature, an envious person. (And to answer the implicit follow-up question: Yes, I think I would both know it and admit it if I were.) I do not look at others and think “I wish I were him.” For example, I sometimes think the reason I do not have more money than I do is because I really couldn’t handle it. I tend not to envy the wealthy, and while others dream of winning the lottery, I tend to divide such fantasies into two parts: The sort of winnings that wouldn’t really change your life (like two million or less), and those that really would change your life (like the sort of tens of millions or more where you’d actually have to do something with it besides stuff it in a mattress). The former isn’t really fantasy or envy fodder, while the latter is more harrowing than the indulgent sort of “I’d buy a yacht, and a car, and a fancy hat…” thing.
But of course, narratively, speaking I now must reveal where I am envious. I sometimes envy Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) only because his humor, at least in the early years, was fairly similar to mine, and his singing voice is way better. Like, if I were going to have someone’s talent, I’d probably have picked his. (Trey Parker is another guy in that category, though I favor show tunes over heavy metal.)
Which brings me to The Goonies, and things in the ’80s that used to piss me off. One of them was Ralph Macchio. I had been spending five hours a day, five or six days a week, for over a year to get some proficiency in martial arts. In The Karate Kid, he waxes some cars over the summer to get to magical proficiency. He then followed up a couple years later by being in a movie about his amazing guitar skills. Over six years of playing guitar, I wasn’t going to see Crossroads. But these are fictional characters.
In real life, there was this guy named Christopher Columbus (no relation) who was writing the crappiest screenplays imaginable and becoming successful off of them. For example, Gremlins. The movie is not bad; Joe Dante turned up the gore and darkness to make it watchable. The plot, with its transparently stupid devices (“Don’t feed them after midnight!”) is an embarrassment. Young Sherlock Holmes is also an embarrassment, down to its “We’ll have them fly! If we learned anything from E.T. it’s that kids love flying crap!” And then there’s this one.
I didn’t see it at the time. I was really iffy on seeing it now, but it seems to be a touchstone for people who were kid-kids in the ’80s. It’s also directed by Richard Donner, who I was pretty high on after this recent showing of Superman, so I checked it out. The script is pretty stupid, once again. OK, it’s really stupid, bordering on insulting at times.
It’s a pretty fun movie, nonetheless, full of people who would go on to become really big stars, or at least transiently popular ones. Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Davi, Martha Plimpton, and even the late John Matuszak, who plays the deformed Sloth had a pretty decent career before his untimely death in ’89. And they’re all very ’80s here, with their hair styles and Cyndi Lauper hotter-than-heck doing the theme. And you know it’s an edgy-’80s kid’s movie, ’cause they swear and shit—including saying that word 19 times. It’s as pointless now as it was back then, really. (Side note: My work filter has this blog restricted as “adult”. What the fuck is up with that?)
The premise is that the Goonies live in some unfashionable part of their beach community that’s about to be turned into something useful, and is a desperate bid to save the day, go searching for pirate treasure, the pirate treasure bit being stolen from a “Little Rascals” short because apparently what Spielberg was really good at was looting the vaults. Seriously, Raiders was a rip-off of a Burt Lancaster movie, close enough to where Spielberg obfuscated its source by citing Fritz Lang’s incomplete “Spiders”, which bears very little resemblance indeed vs. the movie he didn’t mention. (Anyway, you know what they say about artists who borrow vs. those who steal.)
On their way to find the treasure, they run into some desperate bank robbers (Pantoliano, Davi) and their brutish mother (Anne Ramsey of Throw Momma from the Train), and their deformed son they keep chained up in the basement (Matuszak), though I was a bit murky on whether this was a temporary hideout or what. It has a very ’30s feel, this aspect of the movie. Josh Brolin is the good big brother who ends up trying to round his little bro (Astin) and all his pals (Feldman as well as Jonathan Ke Quan of Temple of Doom and the fat Jeff Cohen, neither of whom made it out of the kid-actor ghetto, though at least Cohen’s not fat any more). Along the way he fights for his love interest played by the cute and fortunately legal Kerri Green, in a very short dress, and her tomboy friend (Plimpton) who has one of the dumber tagged-on romantic moments with Feldman. The rival for cute girl’s affection is a guy who might as well be named “Biff” but turns out to be “Troy” (Steve Anton, of the abominable Fast Times ripoff The Last American Virgin).
The pace is good, the action, such as it is, is of the cartoonish “appropriate for children” style (which makes the swearing even more egregious somehow). The music is by Dave Grusin, who wrote the classic TV themes for “Baretta” and “Maude” and arranged the music for the Paul Simon flop “One Trick Pony”. It’s not John Williams, but it’s fine. The special effects are dated, of course, but not horribly so. They still read, and they’ve got enough panache to carry the moments. (A lot of them are very physical, of course: Pirate ship, moving traps, falling water. That helps.)
The movie probably couldn’t get made today since it stereotypes Italians and pirates, and makes fun of the handicapped. So there’s a certain charm there. I dunno. I didn’t hate it. The Boy took his girlfriend to see it (The Flower was not interested, and I couldn’t make a convincing pitch) and they both liked it, but of course they’re young and in-love. My straight-up feeling about this is that it’s passable, and will still be watchable down the line (as it is today) but that it probably occupies a similar plane as the brat pack movies of the era: They mean a lot more to you if you were in the demographic at the time.
As for Mr. Columbus, after leaving the glory-less world of being-just-a-writer, he went on to direct Home Alone (John Hughes’ screenplay, which he apparently never got over someone else directing his most successful film) and then wrote and directed the sweet Only The Lonely, at which point I forgave him his success. Then he directed Bicentennial Man, so I sorta felt sorry for him. Then the first two Harry Potter movies, in which the old Columbus came out, but not enough to smother those flicks. It’s been a career of ups-and-downs, really, so I felt for the guy.
Then he directed Pixels, and I think we can all hate him for that.