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|Kevin Krock, editor|
I am guessing that most children, teens and parents of the mid- 1980s remember The Goonies. With its story and executive production by Steven Spielberg and direction by Richard Donner, the movie was a huge hit back in 1985, and I remember it fondly because I happened to be the same age as the Goonies and could easily connect with them.
The story is about a ragtag group of neighborhood friends who find an old pirate treasure map in an attic and discover that the treasure is supposed to lie underneath their town. In order to save the town from becoming a golf course, the group begins to search for the treasure in the caves below their town, embarking on a fantastic journey that ends up changing the lives of everyone in town. It is a fun fantasy story filled with wild adventures, perilous and startling situations, copious amounts of comic relief, and heart that still holds up after over 15 years. What more could you expect from Spielberg?
I have to admit that there are some things about the movie that time had blurred for me. This film, while intended for the family, has several scenes that are a lot more frightening and intense than I remember. For example, I had forgotten about Chunk being trapped in a freezer with a dead body, or the Goonies coming across the skeletal remains of Chester Copperpot and the pirates. While they play somewhat humorously, they still give me the creeps today!
Granted, these scenes are brief yet important in setting up the story and keeping it going, but they may be a bit too much for younger viewers. Just keep in mind that the movie is rated PG for its scary situations, and for a few uses of language normally reserved for when you smash your finger with a hammer. In the big picture, this really is a fun adventure movie that will suck you and your family in and keep hold of you until its swashbuckling and heart- warming end.
This disc is not labeled as a special edition, but it does contain features that I normally expect from a special edition DVD. There are a couple of long outtakes that obviously and unnecessarily extended the scenes from which they were cut, but they are interesting to watch, nonetheless. Also on the disc is a six- and- a- half- minute documentary on the making of the movie. It is a bit short for my taste, but it does cover a broad but shallow array of the major production aspects of the film. I would have liked to see more documentary or behind- the- scenes information about the massive sets built for the film, but I guess that much of that material no longer exists. Fortunately, the cast and director are still around and interested in talking about their movie.
By far the most interesting feature on the disc is the full- length commentary provided by Richard Donner and all seven of the Goonies. An aspect that I really like is the addition of periodic video shots of the cast as they provide their comments. During several scenes, the movie is seamlessly reduced to a small window in the lower right of the screen, and the primary frame is filled with anamorphic widescreen video of the entire cast sitting around a table in the projection room. The camera is angled to show both the cast and their movie screen, so you can watch the castís reactions and comments as they happen. I found this to be a very interesting way of handling a commentary, and it was neat to actually see how the cast has grown up since they were teenagers over 15 years ago.
Unfortunately, while the commentary itself provides quite a few great and funny little stories, these seem to be scattered among a fairly disorganized background of everyone talking at the same time. Iím sure the producers were trying to get a spontaneous reaction from the cast, but from the outset, it is obvious that many of them had not even seen movie in a very long time. As they remember tidbits, they try to chime in with own their stories, but with eight people in the same room, they tend to talk over one another and some stories get difficult to follow or lost in the din.
The effect here is almost like being at a family home movie viewing, with everyone trying to simultaneously convey all of the memories and comments about a particular scene. The spontaneity and humor are generally enjoyable, but I think it may have been more informative for the viewer if either Donner had moderated the commentary, or the commentary producers had done some post- recording editing to filter out or minimize the interfering side comments. Ultimately, the commentary is definitely worth a listen, if for no other reason than to see the grown-up cast watching and commenting on their early acting accomplishments.
The Video, Audio and Interface
Presented in anamorphic widescreen at the insistence of Richard Donner, the video on this disc should shine on just about any home theater system. I did not remember that this movie was filmed in such a wide screen format, but after watching it a couple of times on DVD, I can see why Donner needed to have the video transfer be as accurate to the film as possible. He uses every bit of the frame as much as possible, and the framing of the large Goonies group in many scenes requires a wide shot. Even though the letterboxing on a standard television is pretty severe, it is still a pleasure to watch this movie on television.
With regard to the video quality, the color, contrast, and detail are very good throughout the movie, and the negative used for the transfer looked to be in pretty good shape, with no major flaws or distractions. Since much of the action in the movie takes place in dark caverns, the excellent clarity of the details and shadows gives a big boost to the realistic feel of the environments in which the Goonies are interacting.
The audio is equally impressive. The soundtrack has been fully remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it, too, does a great job enhance the set environments and the mood of the movie. For example, the surround speakers provide nice echo and ambient effects throughout the movie, even on my simple Dolby Pro Logic system. The movieís music also sounds fantastic, and with the surrounds turned on, the music truly envelops you. In addition to the great 5.1 mix, the disc has alternative French and Spanish language tracks for those non- English speakers, and together with an English 2.0 (stereo) mix, they help round out a pretty good audio collection on this disc.
As the icing on the cake, the user interface is right on the mark. The menus are fully animated with creepy cave and pirate themed features, and they are all accented with some type of audio cue. The menu text is easy to read, and the hierarchy is simple, well- constructed, and easy to use by everyone. It is always nice to see a disc like this that takes advantage of the wonderful features that the DVD medium provides.
The Final Evaluation
As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed this movie when I saw it during its original theatrical release, and after watching the DVD a couple of times I am still enjoying it. While the abundant frightening scenes may not be well-suited for viewing by very young children, this movie is generally a very fun and humorous adventure movie for the whole family. Additionally, the combination of a good video transfer, great audio, a well-themed user interface, and all of the goodies, make this disc hard to pass up, especially if you are considering buying the VHS tape.
If you are still not quite sure if it fits into your permanent DVD collection, definitely put it on your list of DVDs to rent as you get ready for Halloween this October (or now if your list is already getting too long).
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