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The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD Review

The Goonies (1985) movie poster The Goonies

Theatrical Release: June 7, 1985 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Richard Donner / Writers: Chris Columbus (screenplay), Steven Spielberg (story) / Songs List

Cast: Sean Astin (Mikey Walsh), Josh Brolin (Brandon "Brand" Walsh), Jeff Cohen (Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen), Corey Feldman (Clark "Mouth" Devereaux), Kerri Green (Andrea "Andy" Carmichael), Martha Plimpton (Stephanie "Stef" Steinbrenner), Ke Huy Quan (Richard "Data" Wang), John Matuszak (Lotney "Sloth" Fratelli), Robert Davi (Jake Fratelli), Joe Pantoliano (Francis Fratelli), Anne Ramsey (Mama Fratelli), Lupe Ontiveros (Rosalita), Mary Ellen Trainor (Irene Walsh), Keith Walker (Irving Walsh), Curtis Hanson (Mr. Perkins), Steve Antin (Troy Perkins), Paul Tuerpe (Sheriff), Michael Paul Chan (Data's Father), Cyndi Lauper (Herself)

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Is there anything that Steven Spielberg touched in the 1980s that isn't highly regarded by those who grew up in that decade? A few things, maybe, but not many of the 23 films he produced and eight he directed then.
Certainly, The Goonies, which Spielberg executive-produced and wrote the story for, is about as adored as any. Well-received like many of the movies carrying his name in that era, The Goonies' reputation has grown in tandem with its generation's voices. Twenty-five years after its theatrical debut, the movie is cemented as a classic crowd-pleaser.

I can't claim any personal nostalgic attachment to The Goonies. I vividly recall being deathly afraid of an early scene in the movie that introduces the deformed character Sloth. I wouldn't dare watch the movie beyond that. And though I've seen plenty of bits and pieces on TV and in Scene It?, a full proper viewing was something I always meant to get to. I had the perfect opportunity to finally get to it in reviewing the new 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition set that Warner released this week.

Armed with a 300-year-old treasure map and the desire to save their homes, best friends Mikey (Sean Astin), Data (Ke Huy Quan), Mouth (Corey Feldman) and Chunk (Jeff Cohen) set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Goonies is set on a Saturday that is solemn for the "Goon Docks" neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon. A real estate developer is set to foreclose on all of the homes in the area on the following day, progress that will send many a family packing. The looming date threatens to break up the Goonies, our central group of friends, on the cusp of their teen years. They are: sheltered asthmatic protagonist Mikey (Sean Astin), Spanish-translating wiseass "Mouth" (Cory Feldman), fraidy-cat klutz "Chunk" (Jeff Cohen), and gadget-inventing Chinese boy "Data" (Jonathan Ke Quan, Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). After finding a treasure map among the attic collection of Mikey's museum curator father, the guys decide to set out on one final adventure together.

It's a doozy. The moderately fearful foursome winds up at the suspicious restaurant of inhospitable Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey). The land underneath is what they're interested in and if they're right, it will take them to the town's elusive pirate treasure that many have long written off as legend. The gang is joined by Mikey's older brother Brand (Josh Brolin), his potential girlfriend Andy (Kerri Green), and her friend Stef (Martha Plimpton). Chunk gets separated from the rest and winds up in the cold custody of Mama Fratelli and her often bickering two grown sons (Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano). While those criminal three pursue the kids exploring the booby-trapped, pipe-filled caves, Chunk is placed in captivity with the third Fratelli brother, the frightening aforementioned chained-up Sloth (John Matuszak).

Goonies is basically the ultimate children's adventure film. There is excitement, there is humor, and, perhaps most uniquely and importantly, there are strong characters with whom to identify.

The now enlarged group is relieved to find it hasn't lost another member when one of Data's gadgets hugely finds rare success. The basement-confined third Fratelli son, Sloth (John Matuszak), is not easy on the eyes.

Spielberg has been "on" for about 35 years now, but he really went into high gear in the 1980s, wielding greater power than anyone else in the business and using it to put out several high-spirited movies every year. Though the ninth highest-grossing film overall of 1985, The Goonies was only Spielberg's third strongest performer that year, trailing the acclaimed drama The Color Purple that he directed as well as box office champ Back to the Future.

In addition to Spielberg, The Goonies gets key input from two other creative types at the top of their game. Director Richard Donner may not have had a really big hit since Superman (whose sequel he had put a lot work into then been removed from), but he was about to embark on the Lethal Weapon series and my beloved Scrooged, which is slowly being recognized for the great film it is. Donner brings a dynamic sensibility to the film, deftly handling and balancing the comedy and action. The other key player is Chris Columbus. This was not the Chris Columbus of late whose two Harry Potter movies provided more fidelity than flair and whose directing prowess has otherwise been tapering off for fifteen years. This was Chris Columbus the young, hungry screenwriter, fresh off Gremlins and soon to bring a sharp, endearing comic voice behind the cameras of Adventures in Babysitting and Home Alone.

Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) claims her restaurant only serves tongue, something Mouth (Corey Feldman) has plenty of. The asthmatic Mikey (Sean Astin) is embarrassed to have been discovered having a heart-to-heart with long-dead pirate One-Eyed Willy.

With regard to film, people have been saying "they don't make 'em like they used to" since long before The Goonies came around. It's always said with a sadness and longing, but can you imagine if they did make them exactly like they used to in, say, the 1910s and '20s? I think I'd be in a different line of work. Anyway, the statement can be appropriately applied to The Goonies and in that usual nostalgic way. They don't make them like this anymore. When was the last time you heard an expletive in a family film? (I'm talking true kid-oriented movies, not the "Jack Black/Adam Sandler might wind up with a Nickelodeon blimp for this" kind.)
Video clip: Goonies reunite for 25th Anniversary's Treasure Hunt:
When was the last family film you saw that acknowledged private parts? Phrased this way, I realize I'm not making The Goonies sound very good or kid-friendly, but it is both of those things and if it weren't it wouldn't be so respected and loved today.

The Goonies was released a year after the PG-13 rating was introduced (a response to Spielberg's Gremlins and Temple of Doom), but it earned an unobjectionable PG, the same rating held by the majority of today's new animated films. I'm no content crusader and I'm not implying that The Goonies is better because of its foul words and off-color material. But it's definitely edgier, scarier, and more realistic than most modern family movies. It will quite possibly terrify the young and offend the ears of protective parents. But those parents would have been the perfect age to enjoy this film in theatrical release. It's interesting that while today's cinema seems to offer more violence, sex, and profanity than ever before, family films have kind of become more sterile. Those that desperately try to avoid offense typically wind up unable to entertain general audiences in the grand way that all those beloved hit '80s movies (E.T., Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, etc.) did. There are still, of course, plenty of unifying experiences that are easy to value and do splendid business; things like Harry Potter, Pixar, and a number of the Marvel Comics movies. But there also doesn't appear to be anyone with the mindset of a 1980s Steven Spielberg making live-action adventures and fantasies to entertain ages 7 and 70 alike without worrying about frightening or offending.

DVD had been around for four years by the time The Goonies made its debut on the format in August of 2001. Its much-anticipated disc provided the kind of special, nostalgic experience that the general public was coming to expect then. Nine years later, that DVD resurfaces in this box set with a 2010 copyright date and a now-standard keepcase (to which it had been converted back in 2007) but all the contents intact. Why then are we reviewing this now? You'll soon find out...

The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition box art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Set Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French),
Dolby Mono 1.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 2, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.98
Cardboard Box with Eco-Friendly Black Keepcase, Two Magazine Reproductions,
Envelope of Storyboard and Photo Cards, and Board Game
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($49.99 SRP)
Still available as Standalone DVD ($14.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Goonies looks amazing in the DVD's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Watching it, I suspected that it benefited from the concurrent Blu-ray debut. I didn't doubt that the movie could have looked this good in 2001, but it stands to reason that if the studio was striking a new high-definition presentation, they could create a DVD master from that instead of just recycling the old disc. That probably isn't the case, though. The set doesn't say either way and despite the updated copyright dates, the disc's files are all dated 2001.

In any event, the movie looks better than most of Warner's newest films do, displaying remarkable detail and clarity without shortcomings or glaring signs of age. The picture is sharp, vibrant, and sure to be a revelation for anyone still wearing out a pan & scan VHS recording of the movie.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also pretty stellar. It doesn't have the presence and ongoing dimensionality of modern films, but it is effectively immersing and always crisp and clear. For something closer to the film's original theatrical experience, an English Dolby Surround track is also kindly provided.

Cyndi Lauper and the Goonies find treasure in her ambitious two-part music video for the film's theme tune "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough." All the Goonies reunite with Richard Donner and occasionally appear onscreen for their commentary. Seen here are Ke Huy Quan, Corey Feldman (pointing out which holes they were allowed to slide out of), Donner, Kerri Green, and Martha Plimpton.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Extras begin with the music video for Cyndi Lauper's "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" (12:05). Those expecting the standard song-with-movie clips get that briefly, but also so much more. These two short films tell a story inspired by The Goonies, in which Lauper must look for pirate treasure to save the family gas station from foreclosure.
The video includes appearances by six of the Goonies (Kerri Green is missing), the Bangles, Steven Spielberg, Captain Lou Albano, and Andre the Giant. A real treat, it's aided by awareness of how cheesy it all is. The song, which Lauper long disliked but has recently come to embrace in deference to fans, sounds a lot like "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", released two years earlier.

Next comes a "Commentary with Hidden Treasures." Reunited here are director Richard Donner and all seven Goonies (Jonathan Ke Quan, Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, Kerri Lee Green, Martha Plimpton, Jeff Cohen, and Josh Brolin). The hidden treasures part is that from time to time we get to see video of the commentators, reducing the movie to a picture-in-picture window. That's a great touch on a movie like this where it's only natural to wonder how the cast has grown up. I'm surprised more commentaries haven't taken this approach since. Pointing out little facts, illusions, deceased cast members, insert shots that aren't them, and goofs, the group is expectedly rowdy and jovial, with different conversations competing at times. This is one of the most entertaining commentaries out there, and the video does adds value. Astin mysteriously leaves in the middle, never to return. Meanwhile, Feldman reveals that the studio's official line on the cast's genuine pirate ship reaction wasn't true for him; he snuck a peek beforehand.

Director Richard Donner shades himself from that bright Oregon sun in "The Making of 'The Goonies.'" Revealing that Mouth wasn't making up a scary octopus for reporters, he and Stef encounter one in the deleted scenes called Outtakes. "Caution!", warns the DVD's animated main menu when moving over the Special Features listing.

"The Making of The Goonies" (6:50) is not some big recent retrospective, but a press kit piece from the time of filming. Although short and unrevealing, it has all the charm of a 1980s filmmaking documentary. We still get a Steven Spielberg introduction, candid Richard Donner exasperation, and Ke Huy Quan's laugh.

"Outtakes" (6:55) offers not bloopers but four deleted scenes: a convenience store episode, an extended bit outside the restaurant, an encounter with an octopus, and another moment with Chunk and Sloth. These clarify existing material and are well worth seeing, but they could use intros or commentary.

The Goonies' original theatrical trailer (2:40) is nicely preserved.

Finally, there is "Cast and Filmmakers", which doesn't hold biographies or filmographies, just an unremarkable list of leading cast and crew members.

The DVD's inspired menus remind us of a time when Warner put effort into such things. The animated main screen runs water in the cave, while cursors issue warnings and move with the central compass.

All that is fine and dandy, but the disc is just as it was nine years ago. The reason that those who own it might care about this release is for all the tangible goodies Warner has included here.

This shot gives us a look at the contents of the Blu-ray version of The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition, with cool large box, magazine reproductions, storyboard cards, and board game.

The main addition is The Goonies Board Game, which comes packaged in its own box like computer software of yore. Oddly, the game is identified for ages 14 and up, meaning that the typical fan back in the day would not be welcome here. Why, I don't know, because there definitely isn't anything over their heads. In fact, those 14 and up are most likely to be disappointed because the theming isn't the best, the play isn't very fun, and the game isn't of the highest quality.

Two to four players can choose from five characters to represent them: Mikey, Mouth, Data, Chunk, and Andy.
(Why those five? To give girls a voice?) Each player picks up three move cards and proceeds to traverse the colorful game board, having to meet the numbers on One-Eyed Willy's "trap" spaces to acquire gold doubloons and advance. There is a lot of card-picking, which soon exhausts the 45-card deck and requires a shuffle. Special cards deal with bumping players, switching places, and evading the Lockup area where trap failure can send one.

I don't know much about game design but I know enough to think that the strong characters of The Goonies lend themselves to figuring into play as more than game pieces. But, no, there is no mention of them, nor really anything specific to the movie beyond the general booty-trapped pirate treasure hunt motif. Those really looking forward to this aspect of the set are likely to be let down by this missed opportunity for more imaginative fun. At least there's no die; Goonies never play die.

The Goonies goodies continue with two publication reprints. The first is an 8-page booklet of Empire's June 2009 cast & crew reunion for the magazine's 20th anniversary. It opens with a nice group photo of the seven Goonies with Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg and proceeds to interview and profile all but Spielberg (who guest-edited the piece). It's a great, warm retrospective that makes up for the DVD's lack of anything more recent than 2001.

The more substantial second reproduction fuels a different kind of nostalgia. It is The Goonies' official 64-page souvenir magazine. They definitely don't make these anymore. What an awesome inclusion. Sure, it's essentially a detailed retelling of the film's story. But that is complemented by a wealth of interesting production information, cast and crew comments, artwork, and photos (none of it found elsewhere on the DVD). It even covers some cut bits (before they were cut) and Cyndi Lauper's music video. Everyone should agree that this is more valuable now than the $2.95 cover price suggests.

The set also includes an envelope of glossy double-sided 5" x 7" cards featuring storyboards of Lost Treasures (deleted scenes including the squid attack and an unshot Fratelli brother gorilla scam) and some that are in the actual movie. Other cards display storyboards on one side and the corresponding film shots on the other. These ten cool cards are something that fans will spend a while perusing.

Rounding out the contents are coupons/ads for Goonies T-shirts and popcorn tins.

All of this is snugly packaged in a very cool and sturdy box that nicely incorporates artwork from an original poster in a new sea-faring scene. The box features foil and extensive embossing effects (down to the waves!) and opens up to feature a fairly faithful rendering of the Goonies' treasure map. A cardboard overview of contents -- that wraps around the back, top, and bottom of the box when shrinkwrapped -- probably should be discarded. Having the width of four standard DVD cases and the weight of many more, you can probably fit this on the same shelf as your other DVDs and that's probably the only way to have the box stay closed. But it's also fit for displaying with more prominence, perhaps with other fancily-packaged DVD or Blu-ray sets you might own.

Outside again, the seven Goonies -- left to right, Mikey (Sean Astin), Data (Ke Huy Quan), Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Corey Feldman), Brand (Josh Brolin), Andy (Kerri Green), and Stef (Martha Plimpton) -- are pleased by what this hand holds.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Thanks to this review, The Goonies feels like one of the last 1980s cinematic landmarks I can take a stance on. Clearly, it's a favorable stance shared by the film's countless fans. This is fantastical Spielberg adventure at its purest, with Chris Columbus and Richard Donner also deserving major credit for the flavor they provide. Of course, it all gets filtered through the charismatic young cast that delivers the natural performances needed. Though this fun movie taps directly into childhood impulses, the fact that everyone is a kid at some point grants it almost universal appeal.

Largely unchanged from 2001, the DVD offers a good but far from overwhelming handful of bonus features. There is definitely room for improvement, but the vintage extras, spirited reunion video commentary, and knockout feature presentation all add to one's enjoyment. Selling for under $10 on its own, the disc is darn tempting for all.

But for those fans who inexplicably never got around to owning it, those who are among the new fans gained with every TV airing, and those who want the film on Blu-ray, this 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition is worth at least considering if not instantly buying. The $30 price range of both DVD and Blu-ray versions of this set may deter those who aren't diehard fans. Still Warner had provided some nice touches here, particularly the reprints and fancy box. And, although that is sure to change at some point, for now this is the only way to get the US Blu-ray.

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25th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD / 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray / DVD

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The Goonies Song List: Cyndi Lauper - "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough", Phillip Bailey - "Love is Alive", Bangles - "I Got Nothing", Goon Squad - "Eight Arms to Hold You", Cyndi Lauper and Lennie Petze - "What a Thrill", Teena Marie - "14K", REO Speedwagon and David Devore - "Wherever You're Goin' (It's Alright)", Luther Vandross - "She's So Good to Me", Joseph Williams - "Save the Night", Joseph Williams - "Red Hot"

The Goonies: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download MP3s from Amazon Download from iTunes Buy CD from Amazon.com

The Goonies: The Complete Original Score by Dave Grusin:
Buy CD from Amazon.com Marketplace (out of print 25th Anniversary Edition)

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Reviewed November 6, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1985 Warner Bros. Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and 2001-2010 Warner Home Video.
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