The Goonies and the 30 Year Quest for a Sequel

With Hollywood enamored by remakes and long-awaited sequels, The Goonies keeps coming up.

The Goonies 2

Hollywood has long been a serpent eating its own tail – nothing is sacred when big box office weekends are at stake. Why create original content when known quantities—tried-and-true intellectual properties permeate the cultural zeitgeist? Case in point: the myriad sequels remakes, and reboots that have retconned so many of our childhood memories. J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek immediately comes to mind, as does Michael Bay’s gaudy, cacophonous Transformers franchise. Indiana Jones may have outpaced that boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he couldn’t outrun a superfluous fourth installment.

In addition to the traditional reboots and sequels, we have the reboot as sequel (or sequel as reboot) coming into vogue, with Jurassic WorldThe Force Awakens, and Creed serving both as extensions of classic franchises, and resets of problematic continuity and/or mediocre sequel installments. And then there are the belated sequels, films who are getting second installments roughly twenty years too late. The long-threatened but unlikely Beetlejuice 2 fits the bill, as does the excellent Mad Max: Fury Road.

Which brings us to Goonies 2.

When The Goonies turned 30 in 2015, the specter of a long-rumored sequel continued to loom overhead. This was an important milestone for a beloved film that has heretofore avoided the dreaded remake/reboot.  

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In case it’s been 30-something years since you’ve last watched The Goonies, you may not remember the strange melancholy that permeates the story of young, asthmatic Mikey and his misfit friends, who live in the soon-to-be-demolished seaside town of Astoria. The reason for Astoria’s razing? A golf course, of course, which quickly sets the stage for an interesting variation on the tried and true snobs vs. slobs conflict that is the bread and butter of stories that truck in class warfare.

In the case of The Goonies, it’s the grown-ups who are waging war against the banks, their workaday jobs, and their own maladjusted, mischievous offspring. The towel has already been thrown in, as it were, allowing the country club’s bulldozers to not only demolish a town, but the childhoods of several children along with it.

The aforementioned misfits include Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin, long before he wept on the slopes of Mt. Doom), his older brother Brandon (played by Josh Brolin, now a SAG award-winning actor), whose immediate concerns seem to run to the superficial; sarcasm incarnate, Mouth (played by the brilliant Corey Feldman), Chunk (played by Jeff Cohen, one of the few actors from the main cast who left Hollywood behind), and the MacGyver-esque Data (played energetically by Jonathan Ke Quan). Let’s pause to consider that in just this group of kids, we have a Hobbit, Marvel’s big-bad Thanos, a Lost Boy, and Indiana Jones’ sidekick. And when you consider that adult actors include Joe Pantoliano, who starred in The Matrix and The Sopranos, The Goonies has quite the serious pop-culture pedigree.

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Director Richard Donner and producer Steven Spielberg, who essentially crafted an Indiana Jones adventure for kids, imbuing their fantasy and nostalgia for the serials of the ’30s and ’40s with the sort of bittersweet pathos that John Hughes once excelled at during the ’80s. And yet, while Hughes was able to distill both the desire to grow up and the fear of leaving childhood behind, he never had the audacity to include a quest for buried treasure. Or a pirate ship. Or a freakish shut-in with a taste for Baby Ruth bars. Donner, who previously convinced audiences a man could fly in 1978’s Superman: The Movie, and Spielberg, who used a Speak n Spell only three years earlier to phone home in E.T. delivered a film that pulled together so many disparate story elements to craft a film that launched a genre of kid empowerment films that included Flight of the Navigator, SpaceCamp, and especially The Monster Squad, a classic film in its own right.

At the end of the day, Mikey and his friends managed to pull off the impossible hat trick of saving their misbegotten town, liberating their parents from their mid-life despondency, and unexpectedly becoming (reluctant) adults in their own right. Which begs the question—why does such a satisfying, self-contained movie about wish-fulfillment need a sequel? Many die-hard fans are dead-set against a new movie, circling the wagons around their own childhood memories.

Never mind that not only has Donner expressed interest in returning to the director’s chair, but the main cast has shown interest, albeit if the right script ever comes along. More recent word from the cast seems to indicate that this one has stalled, though, and that might be for the best. The failure to launch of high-profile belated sequels like Tron: Legacy or the lukewarm critical response to Independence Day: Resurgence prove that a big budget and A-list talent is not a guarantee for success. Story matters just as much as shiny visual effects, if not more. One would think that if the “right script” hasn’t come along yet for Goonies, it most likely never will.

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Unless…

Most people, myself included, would have been just fine with the halting of Hollywood’s metaphorical bulldozers. And then I had my face melted off by the glorious insanity that is George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015. In the span of two hours, I saw things on the big screen I had never seen before—with all credit due to the only person to direct these Mad Max films. In development since 1998, Miller, who was 70 when he directed Fury Road, brought an astounding amount of vigor and inventiveness to a property that had languished after 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. If George Miller, whose last three films involved a pig and animated penguins, could do so right by the Mad Max franchise, then perhaps Richard Donner could do the same for Goonies.

Part of Fury Road’s critical success is not just Miller’s commanding, all-encompassing vision for a dystopian world gone mad, it’s his insistence on relying more heavily on practical effects versus overwrought CGI. If Donner can bring that same sensibility to a modern take on a 31-year-old movie, I think audiences would clamor for a new adventure. With 2011’s Super 8, J.J. Abrams demonstrated a modern spin on The Goonies’ brand of kid-power can make for powerful storytelling and winning characters. After all, Super 8 is practically a stealth Goonies remake, a heartfelt and clever coming-of-age tale masquerading as a sci-fi action movie. And then there’s Netflix’s Stranger Things, which took many of those elements and refined them even further.

If Richard Donner could make a new Goonies movie that believably continues the story of aging misfits who collectively (and perhaps secretly) still yearn for the adventures of their bygone youth, I’ll give that story a chance to live or die on its own merits. After all, Goonies never say die.

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in June 2015. It’s being repromoted for the film’s anniversary.