HEYYYYY YOUUU GUUUUUUUUYS! The Goonies is finally out on Blu-ray!
I know, I know. I'm showing a bit of bias right off the bat here, but I've always been a sucker for light-hearted adventure films that are fun, yet epic in their own right. The Indiana Jones films, The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, Stardust, The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride, are just a sample of the type of flicks that illustrate my point. Sure, most of these aren't the 'best' films of all time, but The Goonies? Besides practically defining what going to the movies should be about to an entire generation of kids in the 80's, it's still entertaining children and adults alike 25 years after the fact. Needless to say, it's more than deserving of its title as a timeless classic. So, I apologize for being biased towards this fun-filled adventure flick but, can you really blame me?
A group of friends are about to say goodbye to one another on the seaward side of Astoria, Oregon (which is often referred to as the 'Goondocks'). The Astoria Country Club is making a pretty sizeable expansion, but unfortunately for this gang of 'Goonies', that means being kicked out of the very homes they grew up in. Mikey Walsh is especially bummed, so his friends come over to help him look for some 'treasure' in the boxes that are stored up in the attic. Ironically, Mikey and his friends come across a newspaper article, a map, and an artifact that could lead them to some real treasure. Legend has it that a pirate known as One-Eyed Willie hid his ship, along with his massive treasure somewhere in the Goondocks. Mikey convinces his friends that this could not only be the last adventure they'll have together as Goonies, but it could also be the greatest adventure of their lives. Sure, perhaps the prospect of finding hidden treasure is just too good to be true, but if the legend of One-Eyed Willie turns out to be the real deal, they could finally stick it to the man and pull their homes out of foreclosure. But as every fantastical quest ever told, the Goonies have their share of obstacles to overcome if they're to find the pirate swag and save the day. Mikey's older brother, Brandon, was left in charge for the day and was supposed to keep an eye on his sibling. In an effort to save them both from the wrath of their parents, Brandon goes to great lengths to ensure Mikey's safe return home... but even that becomes problematic when the Goonies stumble upon the hideout of the Fratellis, a criminal family on the run from the law. Without a means of escape, the band of friends are forced to delve deeper into the booby trapped catacombs of One-Eyed Willie, getting more of an 'adventure' than they bargained for.
The greatest strength The Goonies has, hands down, is the combined imaginative force of Steven Spielberg (story), Chris Columbus (screenplay), and Richard Donner (Director). The film starts with somewhat of a slow pace, but this isn't because someone dropped the ball during development. No, this accentuates the 'real world' that's presented to the audience, a world where big business can push the little guys out of their homes without so much as a second thought. As the film begins to progress and the adventure begins however, the 'real world' quickly transforms into something we all might have imagined during our playtime as children. Financial woes and saying goodbye to lifelong friends is replaced with cartoonish acting villains, dangerous puzzles that seemingly came straight out of an Indiana Jones flick, and there's even some swashbuckling action in there to boot. It's for these reasons and more that The Goonies has been able to continually entertain audiences for the last quarter century. Kids can easily lose themselves in the adventure, and adults, no matter how hardened by the trials of everyday life, are reminded of what it was like to be a kid. No matter what your age, there's plenty of danger, fun, and laughs awaiting around every bend.
That being said, I have to be honest - The Goonies isn't a perfect film. I may not ding it for some of the reasons many other reviews might (the sluggish start of the film, for example), but even my bias towards the film can't negate some of the issues I have with it. First and foremost, I think the Fratellis are a bunch of bumbling idiots. As I've already mentioned, they're portrayed as cartoonish villains by their very nature, and I've never been a fan of watching grown men and women get dumbed down for the sake of a younger audience... but I've been torn about their presence in The Goonies ever since I first saw the film. As obnoxious as the Fratellis are, I wouldn't change a thing about them. The Goonies would have been a very different film if the Fratellis displayed more menace than face-palming stupidity, because the pacing of the plot would have been thrown off the tracks every five minutes. So, why am I complaining if I admittedly wouldn't change a thing about the Fratellis? It's because even after 25 years of repeated viewing and knowing what to expect, they still leave a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
There are a few other minor quibbles I have with this film, but the pacing is so tight, it keeps those minor issues from standing out enough to hurt the overall experience. Once the kids set out to find Willie's treasure cove, The Goonies never lets up on the gas. There's always something happening that keeps a smile on your face, whether it's watching them work their way through a puzzling booby-trap, having 'Chunk' drive his captors insane by hysterically crying through his entire life story, or making friends with a loveable beast named Sloth. Despite whatever flaws this film has, it makes up for with a hell of a lot of charm, so the time spent watching The Goonies just flies by with ease. After all is said and done, you really feel like this film was an experience, that you actually took a journey alongside the kids from the Goondocks. This film has a ton of replay value, especially considering it's a flick you can sit down with the entire family to enjoy. It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 50, experiencing this adventure for the first time or your hundredth. The Goonies has remained a timeless classic over the last 25 years, and besides the extremely dated 80's music that creeps in from time to time, it most likely will continue to be remembered as the best kids film for another 25.
The Goonies finally gets the HD treatment in the United States with a very nice (although not immaculate) VC-1, 1080p encode (at 2.40:1).
Don't worry, don't worry, there's no evidence of digital tampering to make video purists (such as myself) take a few steps closer towards an inevitable heart attack. Digital noise reduction, edge enhancement, unnecessary sharpening - All absent on this release. Even the print itself is surprisingly clean from dirt and specks. Color saturation is a pretty substantial upgrade over the DVD, especially considering the tones used to enhance certain atmospheres don't seem to hide detail as one would expect.
That being said, although the amount of detail is definitely a pretty substantial upgrade from the DVD, The Goonies doesn't strike me as one of the more impressive catalogue titles I've ever seen. There's a slight softness to the image that isn't offensive, but I've seen films that are older than this one that have fared better with clarity. Granted, I wasn't old enough to view this in theaters so I don't know if this is a faithful representation or not, but I can't help but feel that this could have 'popped' with a better transfer. Contrast is spot on throughout most of the film, as more often than not blacks are quite impressive. There are some instances however where black levels can look a little murky though, and other times it can look like it's causing an ever so slight crush on the image, but these issues never even come close to being offensive. Occasionally, the murkier scenes can reveal a noisy grain structure, but grain is pretty solid throughout the rest of the feature.
All in all this is a solid presentation of The Goonies and a substantial step up from the DVD, but again, I can't help but feel that it could have been even better. Perhaps the film always had a slight softness to it in order to hide some of the special effects (such as the strings used for flying bats, which we can see now anyway), but that's not something I can speak with any kind of authority about. But, the video is definitely worth the upgrade overall.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Lossless Audio track seems to be a pretty faithful representation of the experience The Goonies has to offer, but the mix itself sounds a little dated. Rears are generally used for the occasional sound effect, but effects don't sweep across the soundstage in a believable way. Once the Goonies are in the underground caverns however, they do come into play a little more to provide some environmental ambience. The bass is also a little underwhelming, which is a shame considering some of the Indiana Jones-esque kind of things that happen throughout the film.
Despite the fact that this is mostly a front-heavy presentation, everything else sounds pretty decent here. The dialogue is always clear without issue, no matter what sound effects happen to overlap it, and the music doesn't overpower anything that's happening on-screen either. And speaking of which, the score is probably the most impressive thing this track has to offer. Although the mix itself is rather weak, it's completely representative of the kind of experience films provided at the time, and I'm not really going to knock the track too much for that. This is the best The Goonies has ever sounded on any format, and I highly doubt it could sound any better than it does here, making the audio yet another no-brainer when it comes to upgrading.
Well, let's get the packaging out of the way first, shall we? After all, it's been the cause of some very heated discussions on the internet as of late, so I'm sure most of you want a definitive answer on whether this thick box is worth the extra coin. The short answer? Not really.
The box has a removable backing slip.
The box everything comes in is made of a thick and sturdy cardboard (think about the durability of the recent Alien Anthology boxed set), so there's no risk of damaging this hefty package. When you open it up, the inside cover of the box looks like the map the Goonies find, which is a nice touch. Once you actually start taking things out of the box though, there's resized, paper printed reproductions of the official film magazine from 1985, a rather lengthy article from Empire in 2009, and contained within an envelope are 10 storyboard cards. You would think with all the paper material here, Warner Bros. immediately would have thought, "How about we make a reproduction of the map!" Unfortunately, the closest we get to seeing the map up close is what we see on the inner packaging of the box itself.
The contents inside the box.
Now, you may be asking, "Why is the box so big and clunky if there's only paper memorabilia inside?" Obviously because there's a board game inside, duh. Yeah, that's right... a board game. I have to admit, I really enjoy the nostalgia that comes along with the magazines and the storyboard cards are kind of cool, but what am I going to do with a board game? Maybe it'll entertain the kids for 3 or 4 minutes, but if my little brother-in-law is any sort of barometer, he thought it was pretty lame. Why? "Because it really wasn't that fun." The board game is obviously the reason why this box is so big, and it's obviously the reason why the MSRP is higher than it needs to be... yet ironically, it's the most useless thing this set has to offer.
This is how much room the board game box takes up inside, and here's a picture of the board game out in the open.
Enough of that though. Let's move on to the content that's actually on the disc:
Commentary (With Hidden Video Treasures) by Director Richard Donner and Select Cast Members - You've got most of the Goonies in the same room with Richard Donner discussing the film, and yes, it's exactly as fun as it sounds. The cast members were a bit older at the time of recording, so they spend a lot of time recalling the funny things that happened to them on set, as well as laughing at some of the dated special effects that appear throughout the flick. Uncomfortable silence simply doesn't exist on this commentary since so many people are in the room, and the stories that everyone has to share are almost as entertaining as the movie itself. Even if you're not a fan of listening to commentary tracks, I urge you to sit down and listen to this supplement. This isn't your typical hum-drum commentary experience, and you'll probably find yourself laughing along with the cast of the film. The Hidden Video Treasures option allows some video pop-ups of the cast actually doing the commentary throughout the flick as well.
The Making of the Goonies Featurette - This is really more of a promotional piece than anything else, and only chimes in at around 7 minutes in length. This sort of 'making of' feature has always been a huge turn off for me, because instead of actually learning behind the scenes stuff, we're being told about a film we've already been sold on seeing. Pass.
Also included are some Outtakes, which show us three scenes that were left out of the film, as well as the Cyndi Lauper - The Goonies 'R' Good Enough - Music Video and the Theatrical Trailer.
All in all, besides the exceptional commentary, everything else is a disappointment. We've already seen this stuff when the DVD was released nearly a decade ago, and none of it has been upgraded to high-def for this Blu-ray. Warner Bros. really went out of their way to make us feel like we were getting something special for this 25th Anniversary release. I mean, we got a big fat box that's reminiscent of the packaging for the individual Deadwood season sets on DVD (but not exactly), and it houses paper memorabilia and even a chintzy little board game... but when it comes to giving us something more substantial on the disc itself? What we get for the 25th Anniversary release is pretty much a port of the DVD, with the exception that the movie itself is presented in HD. Very disappointing, Warner.
The Goonies is one of those magically entertaining films that never gets old, so it's really no surprise that it was able to entertain audience members both young and old for the last 25 years. It's only fitting that Warner Bros. releases one of the best kid/family films of all time on such an important anniversary, but unfortunately they seemed to miss multiple points - First, there are hardly any 'special editions' that are truly special anymore, and The Goonies - 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition is the very reason why. The studios eventually pump out a 'special edition' for practically every movie they release, and more often than not, it's just a ploy to get you to buy the same old crap with a different slipcover. This release is no exception. Second, the studio really seems to be out of touch with what fans would actually want included with such a classic film. That much is painfully clear when they opt to include a board game instead of a recreation of the pirate map, or perhaps even the key that was featured in the film. Last but certainly not least, they failed to provide anything new that's truly worthy of our time on the Blu-ray disc itself. Ah well. Despite the fact I absolutely adore this movie and would 100% advise upgrading to the Blu-ray due to the improved A/V performance, I've ultimately decided to advise you to merely rent this instead. I've gone back and forth over whether or not I should give this the average 'recommended' rating since The Goonies is a classic in every sense of the word, but I think it's only a matter of time before Warner wises up and decides to release a 'disc only' version of this film. I would strongly recommend waiting to purchase this film until they do.