Picks and Pans Review: The Goonies

Nine-year-olds of every age are apt to delight in this frenzied fun house from the Steven Spielberg factory. Others are advised to bring earplugs, a flashlight and a book. The Goonies, from a story by Spielberg, is a visual and aural assault. Though the film is directed by Richard (Superman—The Movie) Donner and written by Chris (Gremlins) Columbus, Spielberg reportedly supervised every detail. Don’t look too hard, though, for the innocence of E.T., the wonder of Close Encounters or the thrills of Jaws and Poltergeist. The premise is promising. A group of misfit kids (the “goonies”) from Oregon are determined to save their ramshackle neighborhood from grasping realtors who want to turn the area into a country club. They find a treasure map and go underground to seek a lost pirate ship. The kid actors appear to be having a ball playing rejects who prove to be heroes. There’s Sean Astin (son of John and Patty Duke Astin) as the shy kid with braces, Corey Feldman as the loudmouth, Jeff Cohen as the fat kid and Ke Huy-Quan from Indiana Jones as the nerd. They’re joined by Josh Brolin (son of James) as Astin’s older brother, a high-on-brawn teen who can’t manage to pass a driving test, Kerri Green as Brolin’s sex-obsessed girlfriend and Martha Plimpton (daughter of Shelley Plimpton and Keith Carradine) as a plain Jane. Sadly, the potential for a hip Hardy Boys in this half-pint, dirty half-dozen remains unrealized. Director Donner is stingy with the breathing space needed to develop his characters. And as soon as the goonies fall into the clutches of a family of hoods, the film degenerates into a series of chases that diminish in impact despite some nifty special effects, including a breathtaking water slide. Ex-pro footballer John Matuszak does a delightful job as a superhumanly strong bad guy who turns good (he’s really the top goonie of them all), but there’s more wit and style in the Cyndi Lauper The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough video. In the feature, Donner and Spielberg clearly don’t trust their audience to sit still for a quiet moment. If they’re right (and Spielberg usually is), migraine-inducing sons of The Goonies are going to multiply like mogwais. Ugh. A line in the movie describes what it’s like to watch this bunch of screeching kids: “It’s like babysitting without getting paid for it.” (PG)

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