This time it's personal

An amusement park ride on celluloid

Published: Feb 25 2016, 01:01:am

Tuesday, June 11, 1985.
THE GOONIES. Written by Chris Columbus, based on a story by Steven Spielberg. Music by Dave Grusin. Co-produced and directed by Richard Donner. Running time: 112 minutes. Mature entertainment with the B.C. Classifier's warning: may frighten very young children; some coarse language.
WHAT WAS IT MICHAEL BARTLETT said about theme park management?  "You get 'em on the site, you feed 'em, you make 'em  dizzy and you scare the shit out of them."
    Now that he has some time on his hands, the former Expo 86 president should take his own two children to see The Goonies, a movie that simulates a trip to a Bartlett-style fair.
    Getting them on the site is no problem. After such mega-hits as 1982's E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the mere mention of the name Steven Spielberg is guaranteed to generate excitement among young filmgoers.
    Popcorn sales remained brisk for his last directorial outing, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and for Joe Dante's Gremlins, a special effects fantasy produced by Spielberg. Both pictures left 'em dizzy and scared.
    This basic dark ride technique is honed to a fine edge in The Goonies, a picture that hits the screen at a run and never lets up. Though written by Chris (Gremlins) Columbus, the story is credited to Spielberg. I'll bet he thought of it while on a trip through Disneyland's E-ticket ride, Pirates of the Caribbean.
    The core Goonies are four boys aged about 13, residents of an Astoria, Oregon, neighbourhood due to be razed by a nasty developer. Led by an asthmatic dreamer named Michael Walsh  — gimmie a break, Steve  — they set off along the Pacifc coast to find the legendary treasure of One-Eyed Willie, the dreaded 17th-century buccaneer.
    Their map leads them to a boarded-up restaurant. There the boys — Mikey (Sean Astin), Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Data (Ke Huy Quan) and Mouth (Corey Feldman)  — meet bandit queen Ma Fratelli (Anne Ramsay) and her fugitive sons Jake (Robert Davi), Francis (Joe Pantoliano) and Sloth (John Matuszak).
    They're joined at the Fratelli hideout by Mikey's older brother, 16-year-old Brandon (Josh Brolin), and Goonie girls Andy (Kerri Green) and Stef (Martha Plimpton). Together, they discover the entrance to Willie's world, a network of pirate tunnels that constitutes an underground funhouse complete with bats, skeletal remains and a selection of death-dealing booby traps.
    With the murderous Fratellis in hot pursuit, they dodge bullets,  puzzle out clues and exchange insults. It all climaxes at the end of a waterslide in a huge subterranean grotto where composer Dave (On Golden Pond) Grusin gets to interpolate quotes from Erich Wolfgang Korngold (The Sea Hawk) and John Williams (Superman) into his own rousing musical score.
    As in his previous picture, Ladyhawke, Richard Donner's direction is functional rather than inspired. In The Goonies, he's working from a formula designed to produce not movies, but amusement park rides on celluloid.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1985. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Thirty years on, my review's opening reference to Michael Bartlett is more than a little dated. In June 1985, though, local newspaper readers knew that he was the American theme park expert who had been brought in from California to put together Expo 86, the Vancouver World's Fair. Just days before my Goonies notice appeared in print, the outspoken Bartlett had been fired by Expo Corporation chairman Jimmy Pattison for not being responsive enough to local business and political interests. The big show went on, opening on schedule on May 2, 1986.
    Actress Patty Duke's son, Sean Astin made his feature film debut in The Goonies. He was 13, and already had two made-for-TV movies on his résumé. Working steadily, he made a major impression eight years later playing the title role in Rudy, a biographical drama based on the life of a high school footballer who pursues his dream of college stardom despite dyslexia. Astin's breakthrough role, Samwise Gamgee, built upon his established talent as a team player. Following the final film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Astin spent some time in Vancouver, where he had a recurring role in the post-apocalypse sci-fi TV series Jeremiah (2003-2004). He returned in 2007 to star in a Masters of Science Fiction anthology series episode called Watchbird. More recently, he's been heard as the voice of the red-masked Raphael in Nickelodeon's animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series (2012-2016). A proud long-distance runner — he notes his marathon times on his personal website
— Sean Astin turns 45 today (February 25).
        I'll never forget Astin's performance in The Goonies for the simple reason that it was the first time I ever saw a character named Michael Walsh on screen. The only other movie I know of where that happens is a creepy independent feature called Magenta (1997). Written and directed by Gregory C. Haynes, its MW is played by Julian McMahon, who later appeared as Victor von Doom in the 2005 made-in-Vancouver feature Fantastic Four. In the earlier film, he stars as a married man who becomes involved with his wife's Lolita-like kid sister. To quote Meg Ryan's character Angelica (in Joe Versus the Volcano), "I have no response to that."