As an exciting family adventure, director Richard Donner’s 1985 classic The Goonies, about a group of ordinary children embarking on an extraordinary journey in search of long forgotten treasure and has inspired an upcoming TV show on Fox, still holds up wonderfully decades later. As a film that is free of logical blunders and blatant nonsense, not so much.
To be clear The Goonies, which was executive produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by a young Chris Columbus, is still a childhood favorite to many and one of the 1980s’ greatest cinematic treasures, having launched the careers of The Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin and Avengers: Endgame baddie Josh Brolin. Yet, now that I am older, it is impossible not to notice the little things that, while having no harmful effect on the film’s rewatchability, just don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Look, you can fight me all you want on this concept, but that will be nothing more than an unnecessary civil war and I am afraid you will still be wrong nonetheless. I recommend we take a moment to calmly and maturely take a deeper look at The Goonies and discuss some of the small details about this otherwise beloved cult classic that will have grown-up fans scratching their heads.
Why Does Jake Fratelli Bother With The Fake Suicide Note?
In the opening scene of The Goonies, we are not yet introduced to our ensemble of young heroes, but one of the greedy villains, Jake Fratelli (Robert Davi), who, in one of the darkest ways to open a family movie, has supposedly hung himself in his jail cell. The prison guard who finds him learns from a suicide note pinned to his shirt that the hanging is just a ploy to get his cell door open, right before attacking the guard and making his escape. The reason behind this note is something I cannot put my finger on.
I can forgive this wildly unnecessary escape plan element for the chuckle I get from hearing the guard read “You schmuck!” at the beginning of the fake note. However, considering the rest of the note literally reads “Did you really think I would be stupid enough to kill myself?” the chances of it jeopardizing the credibility of the con sound pretty high.
What if the guard had read the note before getting close enough for Jake kick him? Instead, he would have immediately closed up the cell, called for backup, and put him in solitary. At least I can say that this makes The Goonies’ eventual foiling of the Fratelli’s plans much more plausible.
The Chicken In The Goonies’ Rube Goldberg Machine Just Makes Opening The Gate Less Convenient
After The Goonies, every kid in the wanted to rig their garden with a Rube Goldberg machine to complete a task as simple as opening a gate. Such is the way Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin) allows Chunk (Jeff Cohen) inside the house right after the immortal performance of the Truffle Shuffle. However, there is one thing about the dizzyingly elaborate contraption that would just make things harder for the Walsh’s guests.
The system requires a caged chicken to lay an egg in order to set off the subsequent device in the series. First of all, that would have to be one well-trained bird to lay an egg on command like that and, secondly, once that egg is laid, the machine would have to stay dormant until tomorrow as chickens typically lay just one egg per day.
As childishly amusing as the idea of a live animal being instrumental to the completion of a Rube Goldberg machine, a chicken is among the least convenient choices. Not to mention, I cannot stress how obvious it is that Chunk could have easily opened that gate on his own. He performed the dreaded Truffle Shuffle for nothing.
Data’s “Pinchers Of Power” Should Not Have Saved Him
After making his acting debut in 1984 as Short Round in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Vietnamese teen actor Ke Huy Quan starred as his second most iconic character, Data, in The Goonies the following year. The character gets his name for the highly elaborate gadgets he creates by combining common household items, which come in handy during his friends’ treasure-hunting adventure. A little too handy, if you ask me.
After setting off a booby trap that sends Data falling to a, supposed, certain death, the child prodigy manages to save his own life by activating the “Pinchers of Power” (or Pinchers of Peril) which latch onto a chip of rock emitting from the wall of the cave, stopping him in midair over a positively lethal assortment of sharply pointed sticks. It is an impressive save from a grisly fate, especially considering that the “Pinchers of Power” are essentially a pair of wind-up chattering teeth attached to an unusually strong spring.
Even as a child, I found this moment to be a little far-fetched, but chose to ignore the obvious nonsense in favor of preserving what still succeeds as one of The Goonies’ biggest sighs of relief following a deadly threat. Still, it is hard not to laugh at the concept of a cheap toy coming to a roughly 100+ lb. boy’s rescue, especially considering how that particular gadget, out of all of his creations, ends up being the one that comes through for him most effectively. I mean, the battery life on his “Bully Blinders” barely even lasts 10 seconds.
One-Eyed Willie’s Booby Traps Should Have Been Out of Commission Long Ago
Other than having to outrun the Fratellis, the greatest challenge the Goonies face on their journey to locating One-Eyed Willie’s treasure is the series of booby traps he and his pirate crew set up to ensure the maze of tunnels will become the grave spot of any fortune hunters before they can even reach the prize. The fact that a group of children are able to survive these deadly obstacles is astounding. The fact that the traps were able to survive after centuries is impossible.
According to the history lesson Mikey gives his friends in his attic earlier in the film, One-Eyed Willie hid his treasure sometime in the early 1600s, which means that, in 1985, these traps are nearing 400 years old. It is highly unlikely that such contraptions, many of which are based on a rope and pulley system, would have been equipped with the durability to withstand damage from weathering, termite damage, and countless other factors.
You can call the Goonies defiance of these lethal obstacles a massive stroke of luck, but in truth, they were struck with the misfortune of booby traps that outlived their expiration by wide, wide margin. If the movie were scientifically accurate, they should have had a much easier time getting through that maze.
The Ending Of The Goonies Has A Few Too Many Holes In It
With the Goonies having successful escaped the maze with their lives intact, the Fratellis apprehended by the police, and the children reunited with their parents on a beach, The Goonies concludes with the invigorating discovery that the jewels they retrieved are enough to prevent their neighborhood from being transformed into a golf course. Mikey’s father ecstatically rips the real estate agreement into a several pieces in celebration that his child’s dangerous adventure paid off handsomely. Really, though? Just like that?
On one hand, how can Mr. Walsh be so sure that jewels are clearly worth enough to match the price the people building the golf course are demanding? On the other hand, how can he and the children be so confident that they would be able freely use a fortune that has been sought after for centuries for their own purposes? And, on a third hand that I will throw out because we’ve already given up on logic here a while ago, why do the real estate developers just happen to be at the beach at that exact moment?
Honestly, I am just as happy as the next fan of The Goonies to see Mikey and the gang succeed in their mission and gloriously shove it to the greedy real estate developers, but the convenience of it all just too hard to swallow. Maybe this is why there has never been a sequel. The aftermath of the government seizing One-Eyed Willie’s treasure, Mikey and Brand (Josh Brolin) movies, and the rest of the Goonies getting grounded for keeping their parents worried sick while they risked their lives for nothing would be too sad of a plot.
Yet, in spite of all of its blunders and lazy ignorance of reality, I, like so many others, still cannot help but joyously indulge in the fantastic, spooky fun of The Goonies even today. This classic truly is a testament to the power of nostalgia and thank God for it.
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.