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The Goonies Film Review

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Directed by Richard Donner, and released in 1985, “The Goonies” is an adventure film which presents the story of a group of children in search for a pirate’s treasure. Mikey, Chunk, Mouth, Data and Brandon, accompanied by Andy and Stef, are determined to find One-Eyed Willie’s treasure, which they consider the only chance of saving the Goon Docks neighborhood in Astoria, Oregon, where they live, from being demolished. However, they are closely followed by a group of convicted felons, the Fratellies, who are also after the treasure, as soon as they find out about it. The children have to overcome their fear of the Fratellies, and of the traps set by the dead pirate, in order to reach the treasure. The absolute leader of the goonies is Mikey, who suffers from asthma, and seems to be the most troubled regarding the foreclosure. Eventually, thanks to their bravery, heart and sense of unity, they manage to save enough of Willie’s treasure to avoid the imminent foreclosure.

However, the film is not the typical children adventure genre film, because in it, Spielberg, the producer, and Donner, addresses kids in their early teens, or late childhood, who often use words such as ‘shit’, which are considered taboo in many Hollywood productions. In addition, the kind of traps, and the dead bodies and skeletons found in their way are scary enough to represent a concern for prudent parents. However, through his film, Spielberg did not try to offer any educational lesson in particular, or to spare the children from being affected by what they were seeing. Rather, he tried to obtain a product that would be highly successful on the market. For this reason, he gave children what they really enjoyed watching, regardless of any impact on their fragile emotional balance. From this point of view, the film does not entirely respect the norms of the children adventure genre, which usually does not involve offensive language, dead bodies, skeletons, and other such elements that are often reserved for the horror genre.

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The editing in the film reflected not only the genre, but also the impression that the director tried to create, thus being completely appropriate for the film. Thus, the high level of energy of the children is reflected by editing, through short sequences, and sudden, quick cuts which attempt to reflect the rapid pace in which the action takes place. In addition, the children’s imagination, and their naïve perspective on the adventure is deeply used to create humor in the film, which is reflected in editing the film, through camera movement and score. For example, when the children are trying to guess the dangers that lie ahead, the camera quickly shifts from one child to another, thus clearly being engaged in the ‘guessing game’ alongside the kids. In addition, the scenes often seem crowded, by having the actors staying very close to each other, and constantly bumping into things, and into each other, suggesting the small places and the sensation of claustrophobia that the kids themselves and the other characters must feel.

The score contributed to a great extent to establishing the mood of the film. The non-diegetic sounds contributed to emphasizing the moods and feelings transmitted by particular scenes. For example, the opening scene, with the car chase, is energetic and cheerful, whereas the score that can be heard while Mikey is distressed about the foreclosure is sad as well. In addition, in relation to Brandon, then-contemporary diegetic music is often heard, thus suggesting his belonging to the youth culture of the 1980s. The James Bond theme is often associated with Data, which he plays intentionally. This has a humorous effect, as Data’s tricks almost always fail.

The cinematography supported the mood and tone of the film. In the beginning, the rain had a major role in introducing the audience in the atmosphere of the film. The same rainy weather functioned either as an intensifier of the mystery, because thunders and lightning accompanied the pirate story, and the mystery theme, whereas the depressing rain accompanied Mikey’s sadness over the demolition. The point of view shots are not often in the film, but every time, they were used when a new clue was discovered, in order for the audience to see it in the same time with the character that made the discovery. Most often however, the characters were filmed together, using medium shots and medium close-ups in order to perceive their body language, but also close-ups to surprise their emotions, in particular, their fear. Low angle shots and aerial views are also used for different effects. The aerial shot of the goonies’ trip through the woods is meant to suggest their adventurous journey into the unknown, whereas very long shots of the somber landscape and of the seashore contribute to creating a mysterious tone.

Whereas the film is for kids, the social tone is a serious one, depicting the lack of choices of low-middle class families in their fight against a real estate takeover they have no money to that counterbid. It also depicts the powerful impact this has on children that have to deal with knowing that their houses, playgrounds and other favorite areas will be demolished. The film also tackled issues such as social exclusion, as each of the goonies is an outcast of one type or another, while the ultimate reject, Slush, proves to be a kind, sweet-natured individual, despite his initial monstrous appearance. Finally, the film discussed friendship and praised innocent childish adventures. This particularly influenced by own opinion on the film, as like many other children, I too dreamt of finding hidden treasures and often tried to live all sorts of adventures with my group of friends. The film was enjoyable because it provided a honest look at childhood, rather than providing a sanitized picture of it.

The truth is that children do curse and sweat, that they enjoy horror and they are not always sweet and lovable. The film was also enjoyable for the energy of the characters, their expansive acting and the credible, humorous dialogue I would recommend this film to anyone, regardless of the age, because treasure hunts are enjoyable at any age and remind us of carefree summer days and of our own adventures. I would rate this film 8 out of 10, because of the natural charm that the director manages to create, particularly because of the monumental acting of these hyper-energetic children, who simply cannot stop moving, laughing and make us laugh.