Twenty years ago, it was a summer much like this one — bright, sunny, bucolic — when I asked, begged, implored my parents to take me to see what I was convinced was going to be a movie that would change my life. I had to pull out all the stops to be able to get my parents to take me on opening night; had to threaten to make a scene, coerce them into changing their dinner-party schedule. Naturally, my folks seemed a little gruff going into the movie, but imagine my surprise when they seemed even grumpier coming out. My 11-year-old mind was befuddled. Where was my moment of redemption? Where was the moment when dad would pat me on the back and congratulate me on a prudently determined cinematic selection? Could it be that my parents had actually not been blown away by the movie?
Could it be that my parents did not enjoy “The Goonies”?
For those of you who didn’t come of age in the 1980s, there are things you have to understand. Your generation is catered to, pampered, spoiled. If your generation wants to see a movie about pirates, then gosh darn it, a movie about pirates will get made, and it will star Johnny Depp and feature real pirate ships and digitally vivified corpses swashbuckling, and the whole thing will have a budget larger than the war in Iraq, and at the end you will leave and say, “Yes, that was definitely a movie about pirates.”
In my day, we had to watch “The Goonies” instead, a movie about a ragtag bunch of low-income kids (who call themselves, appropriately enough, the Goonies) whose houses are all about to be torn down to make way for a golf course. Of course, this makes the kids sad, until all of a sudden the kids decide to go up to the attic of their house. Not for any good reason, mind you. They just say, “Hey, there’s nothing else to do,” and they go up to the attic, and what should they find but a map that leads to a stash of buried treasure hidden centuries ago by pirates trapped in an underground cave.
Now the kids are no longer sad. They are excited. They will go underground, and they will find the treasure, even if it means getting through a series of brilliantly engineered booby traps left behind by the pirates. How is it the pirates could design an ingenious series of booby traps that would weather four centuries of wear and tear, and yet not be able to get themselves out of a cave? Our heroes are not bothered by these questions, nor do they complain when they are attacked by bats—and the bats are not digitally animated; they are made of floppy rubber and obviously manipulated by wires. Our heroes are not put off by the crappy effects. Theirs is but to do or die. They are the Goonies.
Looking back at this movie now, it’s hard not to envision a bunch of Hollywood executives trying hard to keep a straight face while saying, “I’ve been really tired lately because I’m putting in overtime on this Goonies project. The scene with the rubber bats is taking longer than we thought.” Why—the jaded modern viewer might ask—did they even bother?
Because they thought they’d really hit on a winning formula: an adventure movie where the kids were the heroes. We wanted to see ourselves up there on the big screen, using the James Bond gadgets, doing the Indiana Jones stunts, saving the day. That was the point my poor beleaguered parents overlooked.
So enjoy your fancy special-effects movies, generation of today. Marvel at your well-crafted “Spy Kids” and “Harry Potter” movies. But just promise me one thing: that you’ll never forget it was the Goonies who led the way.