If I thought I received some crazy looks when I admitted that I hadn’t watched Indiana Jones, I was in no way prepared for the outright shock from some when I said the words, “I’ve never seen The Goonies.” I guess as a child of the 80’s, it was merely assumed that I had viewed the adventure of a small town group of misfit kids searching for buried treasure to save their homes. My neighbor all but shoved his copy into my hands with instructions to “watch immediately.” And so began my introduction to The Goonies.
The plot is pretty timeless for any generation: a group of kids from the wrong side of the dock grab their bikes and an ancient pirate map and ride off to find a treasure trove of “rich stuff,” that could save their parents and their homes from the big bad country club developer. Mikey (Sean Astin), his older brother Brand (Josh Brolin), and their buddies Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Corey Feldman), Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) and two unsuspecting additions Andy and Stef (Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton respectively), sneak out after discovering what appears to be a treasure map hidden in Mikey and Brand’s attic.
The clues and puzzles lead “the Goonies” into underground pathways, caverns and ultimately a hidden pirate ship, and forces them to confront creepy skeletons, outsmart ancient booby traps, and evade the dangerous mother and sons Fratelli gang (Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, and Joe Pantoliano). It’s fun to watch, but I do admit that as a mom of four, I was easily worn by the constant yelling at one another throughout the entire movie. Inside voices, please.
And even though I may be past my prime to truly appreciate the cult following this movie has (I think I miss out on some of its charm having only seen it as an adult), I can still appreciate the themes of perseverance, friendship, and fighting for something that is truly worth the sacrifice and discomfort it may bring.
For a group of goofy kids, the Goonies knew why they were doing what they were doing. There was a greater goal than just getting away from the confines of asthma or adolescent awkwardness. Yes there was the thrill of reward, but also the drive to take control of a situation that was seemingly left for the adults to handle. Mikey especially knew his parents had done all they could to save their home, and took it upon himself to find an alternative way. I know as a parent of a nine year-old, I underestimate her intelligence and discernment in an effort to shield and protect her. I want to keep her innocent and healthy. And yes, that’s totally part of my job. But the other part of it is to help her (and her brothers and sister) experience this life and what is happening around her so that they can be active participants, not just bystanders.
Children have a way of seeing around the blinders that adults have built and instead see possibility and hope in even the direst of situations. Their creativity and energy and full-on stubbornness (strong will…conviction…determination?) can be both inspiring and powerful when adults provide an environment for them to put those skills to work. And I think that is why The Goonies still inspires today – because it illustrates the power of imagination and hope that should be universal in all children…and the adults around them.