You know you’re old when you realize The Goonies is full of faults

July 12, 2009

gooniesFROM JASON’S DVD COLLECTION — In many ways, I am still 10 years old. Just ask my wife. I still watch Transformers cartoons. I eat cereal with marshmallows. And I’m pretty sure girls have cooties.

But never have I felt further from 10 and closer to 30 than last night while watching The Goonies. A nice little patch of gerascophobia hit when I realized that the 1985 Richard Donner flick just wasn’t that good.

It was the first time in probably 15 years that I had watched it all the way through, and the very first time for the wife. I noticed very quickly that she was not laughing. Her eyes were glossing over. She was not caring.

I was embarrassed on behalf of the movie because I’d repressed all its nasty little faults. There were Sean Astin’s awkward moments talking to the skeleton of One-Eyed Willy. There was Kerri Green’s inability to deliver a convincing line. And there’s the disgustingly Jar Jar Binks-ish character of Sloth.

Watching as an adult, I couldn’t believe how long it took to get through the exposition and into the pirate tunnels where the real adventure happens. The Goonies isn’t about the impending foreclosure of Mikey’s home — it’s supposed to be about the booby traps and treasure maps, right?

There were also the wet child actors and their constant, cacophanous yelling back and forth. When they should have been biting their tongues to avoid detection by the murderous Fratellis, they were screaming like little girls. And when by modern movie standards they should have had slick wordplay and clever turns of phrase, they delivered childish little lines.

Or they just swore with sailors’ mouths and a surprising frequency for a PG-rated movie (especially when the new PG-13 rating had been invented the previous year, in response to other Steven Spielberg films like Jaws and Temple of Doom). Characters riff on the word “shit” 19 times, and Data spells it out once more in the final sequence. In hindsight, I can’t believe my tightly-strung, religious parents let me wear out the VHS copy we had (it might have been the television version).

“That was a waste,” the wife said when the credits rolled. I prodded her for some more explanation, and she said it was “too unbelievable” that a pirate ship would be moored off the Oregon coastline for 350 years — from 1632 to 1985 — without sinking from saltwater corrosion. That might happen in fantasy books, like Harry Potter, she said, but not in the real-world setting of The Goonies.

Of course, that’s why the rest of us liked the film as children. We wanted to believe that doubloons and pitfalls and Spanish galleys were awaiting us, just a stone’s-throw from our homes if only we looked hard enough and had the help of a secret map.

Apparently, thrill-seeking fans don’t share my wife’s concerns. The chamber of commerce in Astoria, Oregon, says the film continues to draw crowds to the Goonie House at 268 38th Street (now a private residence) and the old jail from which Jake Fratelli escaped.

The chamber has even produced an audio tour, available in MP3 format, highlighting not just The Goonies landmarks, but also filming locations around town for Kindergarten Cop, Short Circuit, Free Willy, and The Ring II.

You know, people always complain about remakes of films “raping” their childhood. But I think The Goonies would be an excellent candidate for an old cult classic to get a modern sensibility with updated cinematics and some better acting. Just roll with me, here. It could be good.

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Week of Cartoons – Day 3: TaleSpin (1991)

March 25, 2008

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

talespin.jpgFROM JASON’S AIRSHIP FORTRESS — Who is this Baloo of whom you speak? I thought Don Karnage was the star of the show. If we’re being honest, TaleSpin was all about the air pirates.

Plunder & Lightning is the TaleSpin origin story, telling how boy scoundrel Kit Cloudkicker defected from Karnage’s clutches, teamed up with ace pilot Baloo, and saved Cape Suzette from a rain of laser fire and looting.

The show isn’t exactly steampunk, but it’s set in a timeless 1930-ish oceanic world with anthropomorphized bears, apes, tigers, pumas, and dogs. Looking back, I can’t explain how relieved I am that TaleSpin wasn’t just a Jungle Book spin-off set in India and featuring Mowgli. What we got was far superior and reminds me less of Rudyard Kipling and more of Indiana Jones.

P&L hit the TV in 1991 as part of the Disney Afternoon and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animation Program. I didn’t care about that; all I wanted was more kinda-noir hijinx. Boy did it ever deliver. It could have gone wrong — Baloo and Kit could have just zipped around against blue skies with zany, fluffy plots.

Instead, the animators put the Sea Duck in dog fights and swooping dives against some of the most incredible cloudscapes you’ve ever seen and actually made you afraid for the characters’ safety on a regular basis. There were also airships, robots, mad scientists, and diminutive Soviet warthogs.

The show was a bundle of pure awesome.

Baloo was an oddity: In a time when muscled action heroes like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were cashing in, Baloo was a fat, reluctant adventurer. The pear-shaped bear wanted nothing more to laze in his hammock. He was also a bumbler; his only redeeming qualities were his loyalty to friends and his flying skills.

Kit was awesome, zipping around on his aerofoil and playing Robin to Baloo’s huggable Batman. But I always thought the name Kit Cloudkicker was suspiciously too much like Luke Skywalker. Admittedly, I’m always one to see Star Wars parallels lurking in the shadows.

There are also quite a few Star Trek links to TaleSpin. Tony Jay, the voice of Shere Khan, appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Campio of the planet Kostolain, who was engaged to marry Lwuxana Troi, mother of Enterprise counselor Deanna Troi.

R.J. Williams, who voiced Kit Cloudkicker in TaleSpin, was also on TNG as Ian Andrew Troi, Deanna’s father.

Legendary voice actor Frank Welker (Megatron from Transformers), who has more than 550 acting credits on IMDB, helped out in TaleSpin, too. If a cartoon aired without his help, the universe would probably explode. I hear his IMDB resume is almost dense enough to collapse and become a new star. By the way, Welker appeared in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager as a random alien in 1998.