The Goonies surpasses most 80s films to stand as a great example of solid screenwriting. Chris Columbus gives all the characters personality traits that bounce against each other throughout the film, adding to the tight plot, which itself manages to connect a multitude of different elements — pirates, criminals, a misshapen ‘monster,’ a foreclosure, and a random wishing well.
The gang of kids all have their own traits, and all the other kids waste no time pointing them out: Chunk is constantly being told he’s a klutz and too loud — which gives him an entire subplot of being captured — while himself constantly asking for food — which means he’s the one to uncover a dead body in the freezer; Mouth is given disgusted looks for his self-serving, plot-advancing ways, and for his failed attempts at womanizing; Brand is the slightly egotistical but surprisingly nice older brother who tries to bring a sense of adulthood to the gang; the cheerful, inventive Data is there to solve problems as Home Alone incarnate; Andy is the nice-girl love interest; her friend Stef is the snarky pessimist; and Mikey serves to drive the plot towards his end goal of finding One-Eyed Willy and saving the Goon Docks.
In a world where we’re content to have Lone-Ranger-style plots, it’s nice to see a film that bothers to keep itself buzzing along at a proper speed, while still continuing to make sense. The film’s blend of characters and plot is its best feature.
Any thirst for 80s nostalgia can be easily quenched by the hairstyles, fashions, and entertaining dialogue, (“I’m going to punch you so hard, when you wake up your clothes will be out of style!”) even though the film’s plot doesn’t lean on it’s nostalgia to survive, like, well, the majority of eighties films. As far as the actual subject matter, the film revels in being juvenile: the pirate ship, booby traps, and blundering criminals are all clearly ridiculous. If you’re the sort of person who will enjoy the film’s crazy childish nature, you’ll appreciate it’s fantastic writing. If not, go walk a plank.