The seaside town of Astoria is to undergo a development, but not all the residents are happy with this news, specifically those whose houses are about to be demolished to make way for the new buildings. One such family is that of Mikey (Sean Astin) who is a sickly child thanks to his asthma, leaving his mother to frequently fret over him and he is hardly ever allowed to leave his home except to go to school. Still, he had his friends over to see them, and as they are considered social outcasts he has named their group The Goonies as a move towards a brotherhood, though his actual brother Brand (Josh Brolin), older than he is, looks on with some disdain, albeit benevolent. But the time has come to clear out the attic, where they chance upon a treasure map...
Steven Spielberg was the man behind this family adventure, which did prompt some decent enough reviews at the time, yet as the decades went on it became very clear indeed that there was a generational divide among those who appreciated The Goonies and those who would rather stick their hand in a blender than watch it twice, or even once. There are films that really have to be seen at a certain age, and if you were over eighteen when you first watched this then it's likely it would do absolutely nothing for you. This has developed a curious state of affairs where it is completely beloved of a large group of movie fans, but an equally large group find it a total test of endurance to spend time with these characters.
Reputedly inspired by an Our Gang short that was a childhood favourite of Spielberg's, the script, based on his outline, was penned by Chris Columbus, soon to be one of the most successful blockbuster producers and directors of his era, though also one of the most divisive. His best screenplay was probably one of his first, Gremlins, where his penchant for cruelty for fun was at its most acceptable; judging by his comedies, all you needed to do to make Columbus laugh was to give him a hard boot to the bollocks and he would be delighted (testicle abuse was a feature of the humour here, too). With The Goonies, he actually had a promising idea to fuel the adventure, that kids were as rude and crude as you remembered them being when away from the adults' watchful eyes.
This embracing of the less polite aspects of being a child hanging out with your friends was a feature of every scene, as these kids swear, make off colour jokes, pick on one another (the rotund one, Chunk played by Jeff Cohen, appears to bear the brunt of a torrent of fat shaming as written to spend his every waking moment thinking about junk food) and generally are every grown-up's worst nightmare, hence the resistance to their charms for that older age of audience. Yet there was a definite anarchic appeal to that kind of behaviour, especially when the characters are pitted against a gang of crooks, the Fratellis (Anne Ramsey as the matriarch, Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano as her sons), who for some reason have a rubber-faced, ear-waggling mutant member of the family as well, mainly to sort out some plot details at the end.
That treasure map leads the Goonies on the trail of One-Eyed Willie, not one of those bad taste cartoon bathroom reads of the eighties but a pirate from long ago who is rumoured to have hoarded a fortune in treasure, so if only they could find it then they could raise enough to save their houses. They get mixed up with the Fratellis in a manner best described as chaotic, as director Richard Donner seemed to have wound up his young cast like clockwork mice and let them go, with so much talking over everyone else's lines that he made Robert Altman appear like Yasujirô Ozu, contributing not so much to an air of free for all fun, but more of scenes out of control, again something that can have its engaging qualities in comedy, but here a test of the patience if you were in any way fond of narrative coherence. With the younger cast instructed to perform at the top of their voices far too often, the brash mood was overwhelming, again not an insult to the ears in itself, yet what really stuck in the craw was another Columbus trait: unearned, glutinous sentimentality. The final sequence had such an air of self-congratulation that you really had to be invested in The Goonies to feel rewarded, otherwise you could take consolation that the movie was over and they'd all finally shut up. Music by Dave Grusin.