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 plot of The Goonies 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.
The '80s were a more innocent time, especially for filmmakers and audiences who enjoyed to stereotype minorities. You could barely throw a Rubik's Cube in a teen movie from the decade without hitting a broken-English-speaking Asian character who was good at math and science, sneaky in some way, a kung-fu master, and/or totally asexual.
In The Goonies, that character is Data, played by Jonathan Ke Quan.
Data 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!); he's 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 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 as smart. His gadgets are unnecessarily complex and impractical, and he makes some pretty stupid decisions. Towards the end of the movie, he doesn't even know what equipment he's actually carrying.
Every member of the squad, even Mikey (Sean Astin), 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.
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 or someone the audience can care about. That should be Mikey, the de facto leader, but even he picks on Chunk (Jeff Cohen) and throws around insults with the worst of them. The first thing he does when the group is captured at the Fratellis' hideout is to concoct a reason to abandon his friends and go looking for the treasure by himself, which leads to his discovery of Sloth (John Matuszak).
We're supposed to like these kids?
A sure sign of lazy ensemble writing is including a bunch of one-note characters who never grow beyond their single character trait. But The Goonies is considered a classic despite being a textbook example of this.
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 (Josh Brolin) is the overprotective big brother. Data is the cunning Asian kid who's good at science. Mouth (Corey "Surely This Level Of Fame Will Last Forever" Feldman) is obnoxious. 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.
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. But it's baked into a kid's adventure movie about a group of friends searching for lost pirate treasure. The filmmakers also sprinkle in a dose of light horror and slapstick comedy 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. The fan video above shows just how terrifying this movie really is.