Fat shaming and bullying. Racial stereotyping. Drug and sex abuse references. Assault, theft, and attempted murder. And that's just in the first 30 minutes.
That's right, it's The Goonies, a "classic" 1980s kids adventure movie that is among a certain generation's absolute favorites. But it shouldn't be, because, frankly, The Goonies sucks.
Okay, granted, that's a bit of an overstatement. There are far worse movies than this one. But, if you're a grown-up or a kid with a halfway logical brain, there are a lot of things you ignore in The Goonies so you can keep enjoying it, and not all of them are minor plot points or gaffes that only pedants or film snobs would care about. The Goonies' plot is, of course, ridiculous, and that's not a bad thing in itself. It's just that along with the crazy Goonies plots, you're also served up a dollop of regressive social attitudes and sloppy writing.
So, hey, you guys: maybe it's time we took this movie down a peg or two.
It's Racist Towards Asian Americans
The 1980s were a more innocent time, especially for jerkwad filmmakers and audiences who enjoyed stereotyping minorities. You could barely throw a Rubik's Cube in a kid or teen movie of the decade without a hitting broken-English-speaking Asian character who was good at math and science, sneaky in some way, a kung-fu master, and/or totally asexual. For The Goonies, that character was Data, played by Jonathan Ke Quan.
Data, in fact, embodies almost all of the major Asian stereotypes: he speaks English as a second language and his trouble with pronunciation is the butt of many "jokes"; he's smart and good at math (it's right there in his name!), an inventor of impossible gadgets he keeps hidden in his huge trenchcoat (sneaky, see?); and he is the only Goonie who shows no interest in flirting with the girls when they turn up (asexual).
The only Asian stereotype not slapped on Data is "kung-fu master," but not to worry: Ke Quan got to do that one, too, as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The worst part here is that even though he's presented as a genius, Data isn't actually written smart. His gadgets are unnecessarily complex and impractical, and he makes some pretty stupid decisions. And towards the end of the movie, he doesn't even know what equipment he's actually carrying.
The Kids Are A Bunch Of Little Jerks
Every member of the squad, even Mikey, is a terrible person. The Goonies are messy, disrespectful little liars who are always cutting each other down, physically abusing each other, and looking for ways to humiliate or hurt people outside their goofy club.
Now, sure, there are much worse people in the movie trying to kill them, but that only gets you so far. It would be a lot easier to sympathize with the Goonies if at least one of them was shown to be, at their core, a decent person. A character the audience can care about. That should be Mikey, the de facto leader, but even he picks on Chunk, and throws around insults with the worst of them. The first thing he does when the group is captured at the Fratellis' hideout is concoct a reason to abandon his friends and go looking for the treasure by himself, which leads to his discovery of Sloth.
We're supposed to like these kids?
The Whole Movie Is Populated Entirely By One-Note Characters
A sure sign of lazy ensemble writing is a bunch of one-note characters who never grow beyond their single character trait. But The Goonies is considered a classic despite the fact that it's a textbook example of this kind of bad writing. Every character in the movie has one "hook" and sticks with it to the very end. Mikey is the quiet leader. Chunk is the clumsy fat kid obsessed with food. Brand is the overprotective big brother. Data is the cunning Asian kid who's good at science. Mouth is a dick. Sloth is a misunderstood gentle giant. And so on.
None of this changes by the film's end. You could put some spin on it and call them archetypes, I suppose. You could also settle for a C in screenwriting class.
The Goonies Tries, And Fails, To Be Two Movies At Once
Tonally, The Goonies is all over the place. It's a thriller about some plucky suburban kids trying to outsmart a ruthless family of criminals... baked into a kid's adventure movie about a group of friends searching for lost pirate treasure... with some doses of light horror and slapstick comedy added for seasoning. It's trying to be all things to every kid, and in retrospect, it doesn't pull this off as well as we all seem to think it did.