In 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial arrived on the scene and set a high benchmark for movies that were both for kids and about kids. At the heart of a film about a boy and the stranded alien he befriends is a tale about the power of kid spirit, and it affected a generation. The 80s were our time. For popular film, it was an era that demonstrated that kids could be the heroes. In the years that followed, we saw the trend develop, with films like WarGames, Footloose and The Karate Kid arriving in '83 and '84. And then came 1985, the year of Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club and The Goonies. Kids mattered, and not just as an audience. Their stories mattered. Films about adventure, growing up and having the power and opportunity to make a difference blew up and left a lasting impression.
When we consider the prospect of a Goonies sequel, it forces us to ask a few key questions. We'll put aside the obvious ones: What is it about? And Will the original cast return? The answers to those are, we don't know and we don't know. From what Richard Donner said recently, it sounds like there's a story idea in place, courtesy of Steven Spielberg. And it sounds like it may involve the original cast, however Donner's remarks suggest nothing is set in stone there. Beyond that, we can only speculate as to what this sequel might be about.
The ones we as Goonies fans need to be asking relate more to the intention of this sequel, including its potential audience, and the timing.
Can The Goonies 2 possibly be as wonderful and memorable as the original?The optimist in me wants to say at least, "maybe," but let's be real here. A story that leaves an imprint on our hearts likely sets an impossibly -- or nearly impossibly -- high standard. An adult in their thirties could probably watch The Goonies now for the first time and acknowledge that it's a good or even great movie, but it's not going to affect them the way it might have if they'd seen it when it first released. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and while it might lure many of us into theaters -- especially if the original cast is involved -- it could very well work against the new movie, if it doesn't measure up.
The fact that it's a sequel and not a remake is something that may work for it. Take two of the examples we mentioned in our intro. The remakes of Footloose and The Karate Kid were both fine movies and decently updated concepts. But were either all that memorable? Or did we watch them and then essentially ignore them and go back to appreciating the originals? A Goonies remake that tried to retell the same story might tap into nostalgia in its own way, but in the end, unless it's drastically changed enough to stand on its own -- see RoboCop -- it'll probably be hyped, seen and then eventually filed under other 80s remakes, leaving no major lasting impression. It will not be a movie people remember line-for-line thirty years from now.
If a Goonies follow-up stands any chance of capturing some of the original magic, a sequel seems like the best approach to take. Whether or not it lives up to our hopes or manages to win the hearts of a new generation remains to be seen.
But what can Goonies 2 possibly offer a new generation?Let's stop thinking about ourselves for a minute. Let's take a moment and recognize that we're in the "up there" part of Mikey's grand speech right now. "Down here" is where the kids are, and I like to think that the intention of Goonies 2 would be to inspire and entertain a new generation of kids, assuming the subject matter focuses on kids this time around. If that's the case, then Richard Donner, Steven Spielberg and whoever else is involved in this project may want to take a big step back and question what it is that would speak to kids in this day and age.
The adults of the current era might jump to the conclusion that kids are all too preoccupied with their gadgets and too busy Facebooking and what-not to embark upon a Goonies-like adventure or want anything to do with anything not found on their iPhones. But consider for a moment that grown-ups in the 80's might have tried to argue the same thing about the kids of that era, too busy with their TV sets and Walkmans to get off the couch and do something. Anything. The Goonies defied that logic, as the kids in the story proved more than motivated to leave the comfort of their "stuff" and risk their lives to save their town. So let's not underestimate today's youth and say that the story is outdated.
An adventure story about a bunch of kids on a mission to save their town -- or whatever the sequel decides to be about -- isn't so unlikely. The problem is, the concept isn't so original either. Yes, it's been thirty years since The Goonies and about as long for all of the other kid-focused 80s movies. But it hasn't been nearly as long since the Harry Potter films, which were all about kids rising up and being the heroes of their own story. That concept isn't so novel these days.
And TV and film are saturated with kid-focused content now. Gone are the days of Saturday-morning cartoons. Here are the days of Netflix and whole channels that play nothing but kid-centric content every day. What's missing, if anything is the content that caters to both parents and kids alike. At present, animated films seem to be succeeding in entertaining adults and their kids, however we don't see a lot of family-focused comedies or adventure stories in theaters anymore. Which brings us to...
Is there even an audience for a Goonies-like movie?Again, we can bring it back to nostalgia and suggest that at least part of the intended audience of this film will be those people in their thirties and forties (and maybe some in their twenties) who grew up watching The Goonies over and over. And the rest will presumably be their kids, or kids in general. We don't see a lot of movies like that these days. As mentioned, animated films do tend to cater to a wider audience, but on the live action front, the superhero genre seems to have that market cornered, and many of those films are rated PG-13. Take a look at the PG films currently playing in theaters and you'll see that most of what's there is animated. Of the PG-13 movies, the closest thing to kids movies are young adult adaptations (Divergent, Catching Fire, Vampire Academy).
In this current era of film, Harry Potter might be the best example of a kid-focused franchise with an audience that ranged from kids to adults, and the last of those movies wrapped up three years ago, by which point the Twilight era was well underway and studios had begun churning out Young Adult adaptations. So, is there an audience for kid-focused movies? The box office total for J.J. Abrams' Super 8 suggests maybe. The 2011 film earned a worldwide total of $260 million, so it was by no means a flop. But it didn't exactly start a new craze. Then again, it's worth noting that the sci-fi film arrived just as the Harry Potter franchise was wrapping up and after 8 hugely successful Harry Potter films, movie-goers may have had their fill of kid-centric films for the time being.
That brings us to the final question, taking into account everything mentioned above...
Is now the right time for a Goonies sequel?In terms of right now, meaning if the Goonies sequel were to hit theaters tomorrow, I'm going to say no. It's too soon. Let's take into account some of the things we brought up earlier. The Young Adult craze is still happening, for one thing and it hasn't peaked just yet in terms of interest. Say what you want about the teen-focused movies, but there's still an appetite for them right now.
We're also living in an era where superhero films are massively popular. They were popular in the 80s too, thanks in part to Richard Donner's Superman (1978). But consider the number of Marvel and DC projects available and in development on both the big and small screen and it's evident that right now, our eyes are on the masked heroes, with or without actual superpowers. There may not be much interest in a story about kids saving the day when we're too busy being dazzled by young adults and superheroes.
With that said, a year or two from now, it's entirely possible that superhero fatigue will have begun to set in at long last, and we may be developing an appetite for an adventure set amidst a simpler story, with a more relatable setting and ordinary characters, in which the only thing the heroes are armed with are their determination, bravery and belief in themselves... and maybe some booby traps. The simplicity of the Goonies story may prove to have a lot of value amidst the more complex stories being told on screen today. In the post-Star Wars era, that's one of the things that worked really well about The Goonies. It felt attainable. As a kid, the story felt like something that could actually happen. After seeing The Goonies, what kid didn't want to discover a treasure map or find that there was a pirate ship packed with riches hidden a mere bike ride away?
There's still value in a story like The Goonies, and we aren't seeing a ton of movies that tap into that potential right now. But it might be a little too soon. Not too soon since the original film, obviously, but too soon as it relates to the current trends of popular movies. Of course, we're only hearing comments about this sequel right now. If plans are developing to make The Goonies 2 happen, the targeted release date might be 2016 or 2017, in which case, the timing may prove to be perfect for The Goonies to return with a followup.
Whether or not the timing proves to be right, we can only hope that if a sequel does happen, they get it right. Get the story right. Get the casting right. Understand the audience. Take the best of what the original film had to offer in terms of the heart and humor and apply it to a movie that works for a modern film. Honor the original movie and make this one matter. If they can do all of that, it's good enough for me.
Do you want The Goonies 2 to happen?