Whether written or directed, Steven Spielberg is always on tap with children. From Close Encounters to E.T., the central child is always a presence. Spielberg is credited with only the story for The Goonies, but the influence is there.
The film is loaded with kids, each an outcast, but banding together to form the title group. Their personalities define childhood, all of them representative of “that kid” from grade school. It’s not that they’re stereotypes (although it’s easy to criticize the film for that) but individuals. They are the type of characters you can get behind.
Yes, they joke and at times seems overly cruel, forcing Chunk (Jeff Cohen) to perform the Truffle Shuffle before letting him into the house. However, they’re kids. It’s more playful than anything. Rooting for them is easy, but in a rare occurrence, as a group. None of them are outright evil; films like this usually featuring one kid who will ruin it for the group, but Goonies breaks that trend. Even the older brother Brand (Josh Brolin) joins in, typically the character of discontent.
Besides characters, Goonies has adventure, a trek through a dark underground cave system in search of a pirate’s gold. Close behind are the Fratelli crime gang, a bumbling crew of Italian gangsters and their deformed brother. It all leads to where you expect it too, that confrontation over the treasure as the villains are all too slow to beat out kids for the riches, but how it gets there is where Goonies left its mark.
There is a lot of nostalgia that drives the continuing popularity of this movie, one of those VHS tapes many an ’80s child wore out in their youth. Why? This is their film, an on-screen look at something they would have loved to do, but couldn’t. That goes for any generation, but this is an ’80s film, and as such, defines that era of growing up. It’s almost irrelevant why they’re searching for treasure, that whole subplot about the house being torn down by land developers secondary. Goonies’ main concern is bringing this crew together, the true sense of camaraderie established between the cast, elevated by a series of enthusiastic performances.
Warner issues Goonies on Blu-ray for the 25th Anniversary, and the best guess is they’ve been sitting on this one for a while. This VC-1 encode looks dated, and not in terms of the source material reaching its silver milestone. The print used is fine, pristine even, damage non-existent. It’s in the digital domain, certainly where time can play a bigger role.
Light grain here is just barely notable, at times hardly even evident on the screen. Assuming this used a fine grained stock, there is no foul play. The issue at large is likely the encode. Rather poor compression seems to be playing a role here more than anything else, film-like not a term term that enters into the equation very often. The image isn’t riddled with compression, but lackluster detail, smooth faces, and the muddy nature to it all are sure signs the codec isn’t keeping up. A light layer of edge enhancement is noticeable along some high contrast edges too.
Any work done is certainly evident in the colors. Much of the movie takes place in dimly lit caves, yet the bright yellows and reds of the jackets carry a vibrancy throughout the film. Chunk’s in particular is a vivid red, sticking out against nearly every other element. Flesh tones waver, ranging from pink in the early going to deeper warm hues before the end.
Black levels are deep and bold, resulting in some crush in spots, and that’s not just inside the lamp-lit caves. Even in the house as the plan comes together shadow detail is swallowed. The intended effect is surely to give the image some added depth and intensity, and it’s not the end of the world, but a mild annoyance nonetheless. Contrast boosting does not leap out as a problem.
There are some moments where the detail comes alive. Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) has a number of defined close-ups, the first one inside the truck during the prison break. The make-up of Sloth (John Matsuszak) contains a strong amount of detailing, now visible with the added resolution. These are the bouts of images showcasing what this film could look like with some more care, or something a bit more up to date.
A TrueHD audio mix is certainly more acceptable than the video, although not without problems. A lot of the dialogue seems to have been recorded live on the set, probably even logical to avoid having the kids come back later. This gives the dialogue an airy quality, lacking in precise fidelity but still entirely natural. Near the waterfall when they first find coins, the rushing water dilutes the performances further, the sound effect itself not the cleanest.
The score generally squares itself up in the front channels. The effect is fine, and well in balance when the action becomes heavy. Warner’s audio engineers have added some substantial surround effects, playing well with others and not sounding overly forced. The rear channel audio is natural, as if it’s been there forever. The sequence where the kids bang on the pipes at 50:20 is quite effective, and the bats at 57:55 another nice moment, this one a fine pan effect.
There is some bass to go around too, the various traps involving hefty rocks crashing down with force. Like everything else, the low-end sounds normal. Thunder from inside the attic early generates a powerful rumble from the sub, loaded with clarity. Note the track defaults to Dolby Digital, one of the older Warner Blu-ray tricks and further making a case for the theory that this one has been lying around in wait.
A commentary featuring Richard Donner and the Goonies themselves now all grown up can be heard via audio, or viewed in a picture-in-picture piece. A vintage making-of comes from 1985, with some behind-the-scenes footage to go around. Deleted scenes run seven minutes, while the Cyndi Lauper music video follows.
This box set also comes with a full board game, storyboard reproductions, and two magazine reprints, all enough to justify the higher-than-normal price tag.