Viking Night: The Goonies
By Bruce Hall
August 6, 2014
The disappointing thing about The Goonies was finding out what Goonies were not - as in “not zombies” and “not bloodthirsty mutants.” This is the reason I missed it when I was a kid. I found out there were no face-hugging xenomorphs and no flesh-eating lizard people from Neptune. If you think that’s childish, bear in mind that I WAS a child when this movie came out. And I was a child steeped enough in the macabre that I did not expect a movie called The Goonies to be about a bunch of seventh graders wandering around rural Oregon, breaking into houses while Josh Brolin chases them on a pink tricycle.
Actually when I put it that way, it sounds pretty appealing. But anyway yes, I had never seen The Goonies before now. This is despite my being a child of the ‘80s who (still) regularly drops lines from Ghostbusters into casual conversation. This is despite being a boy to whom driving a bullet-proof, crime-fighting Trans Am was a legitimate line of work to suggest to my career counselor. For a lot of people in my age group, The Goonies is a somewhat distant memory that nonetheless stirs up warm fuzzies when you mention it. I know grown men and women who walk around in T-shirts celebrating the Truffle Shuffle. So when I say I had somehow never seen The Goonies, I am aware it’s a bold statement.
Now that I’ve spent two paragraphs talking about what Goonies are NOT, I guess we should go ahead and get to the bottom of what a Goonie IS. Goonies are, in fact just kids. They’re all neighbors in the quaint seaside town of Astoria, Oregon. For reasons left unsaid, their subdivision is called the “Goon Docks.” There’s your title. The obvious leader of the group is Mikey (Sean Astin), a wise-past-his-years boy with an apparent preternatural knack for solving crimes. His friend Mouth (Corey Feldman) is the Joe Pesci of the group, and is also trying to bring back running your fingers through your hair as a debate tactic.
Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) is not an anatomically correct android from the future, but a delightful Vietnamese boy who invents unlikely things at convenient times. Write this down – The Goonies gets two stars right off the bat for being one of the few ‘80s comedies to feature an ethnic character and NOT exploiting them in any way. But I’m no hero. I’m not saying political incorrectness isn’t funny, I’m just saying it’s a pleasant surprise when films voluntarily take the high road. Now that I’ve said that, rounding out the group is Chunk (Jeff Cohen), who is the Token Fat Kid and is treated as such all through the film. So much for being progressive.
But I’m still not going to judge. It was a different time.
The lone auxiliary Goonie is Mikey’s big brother Brand (Josh Brolin), a loveable meathead who has since no doubt enjoyed a long career waxing other people’s cars for a living. He halfheartedly pushes the younger kids around but isn’t any smarter than they are, so he ends up socializing with them anyway. The gang is enjoying a final weekend together before the nefarious Astoria Country Club forecloses on their homes and levels the town. The Club evidently plans to build a private golf course on an expanse of terrain so lumpy it makes San Francisco look flat. But what screenwriter Chris Columbus lacks in the area of golf course design, he replaces with pretty solid storytelling instincts, at least if you’re young enough to identify with Mikey and his friends.