Had Steven Spielberg stopped making films in the mid-’80s, his most lasting contribution would likely have been changing the way we look at American suburbs and small towns. E.T. suggested a potential for wonder beneath the rolling lines of identical houses. Though Spielberg’s own films quickly moved on from that locale, he kept producing movies in which other filmmakers explored the hidden potential for terror (Poltergeist), satire (Gremlins), and self-discovery (Back To The Future) in the midst of sleepy anonymity. Directed by Richard Donner from a story by Spielberg and a script by Gremlins’ Chris Columbus, the 1985 film The Goonies is the simplest and least satisfying of Spielberg’s suburban wonderment cycle, a low-aiming, broadly played kiddie adventure that’s nonetheless become a generational favorite.
Some cults form around films unrecognized in their times. Others develop out of nostalgia. Goonies belongs to the latter camp. See it before puberty hits, and you’ll likely become a fan. Catch it later, and it looks like a bunch of precocious brats ambling through setpieces deemed too uncool to cut it in an Indiana Jones film. Sean Astin plays the leader of a pack of misfits in danger of losing their home to some uncaring developers. (Worth noting: The forces of suburbia are the bad guys here. The Goonies are all working-class kids living in a pre-gentrified patch of Astoria, Oregon.) Fortunately, Astin has a line on some pirate treasure rumored to exist somewhere in town. Towing along older brother Josh Brolin and friends—a bunch who range from charming (Martha Plimpton) to annoying (Corey Feldman) to intolerable (token fat kid Jeff Cohen, whom the script forces to talk about food in virtually every scene)—Astin goes hunting for treasure while avoiding a group of murderous counterfeiters (Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano). Also on board: a kindhearted, misshapen brute named Sloth.
Donner directs with cartoonish, kid-pleasing abandon, but the forced fun, theme-park-like adventure sets, and shameless cheesiness—Astin gets to deliver a lot of inspiring pep talks—almost seems designed to grate on grown-up nerves. For those who haven’t seen it for a while, it might be best left swaddled in nostalgia, or experienced with the next generation of easily pleased fans.
Key features: The 25th-anniversary set goes all out, filling out the Blu-ray with deleted scenes, a commentary that reunites Donner with much of the cast, and a Cyndi Lauper music video. But wait, there’s more: You also get a reproduction of a Goonies fanzine from 1985, a reflective article from Empire magazine that reunited Donner and the cast, and a Goonies board game filled with easily lost parts.