Every viewing of Disney’s Goonies (1985) fills me with the same seeping dread.
It comes near the end of Goonies when the father takes the contract which would have sold his home to greedy land developers and rips it up, throwing the segments high into the air. It’s not really the cinematic framing or symphonic score that gets me, but something much more subtle: the shot of the father’s hands throwing the paper up and then, as if to drive the point home, another larger burst of ripped up shreds blows up, seeming to originate from behind his hands.
I had to watch this several times before I understood the true implications: the sight of real scraps just isn’t enough. Clearly, the director saw in this shot an opportunity to attain the perfect “platonic ideal” of paper shreds thrown into the air. It didn’t matter that the two bursts are clearly half a second out of synch, all that mattered was that in a shot consisting of just hands and scraps, the scraps filled the sky in a way they never could in tedious real life.
Indeed, perhaps we are better off that we cannot tell off stereotypically land-grabbing developers so perfectly. Who would want to build homes in a world where someone could rip your contract into so many pieces and fling it so powerfully that it could fill the sky–the whole sky–advertising your failure to build homes to all your friends and relatives?
And what about the movie’s Asian comic relief, Data? Didn’t he realize what he was doing to Asians everywhere? When the character playing his father picked him up and said, “You are my greatest invention!” wasn’t his line delivered with a kind of Sisyphian sadness?
Sometimes, during my nightly viewings of Goonies, I think about all these things. Sometimes, when Chuck is in the freezer with the corpse and on freeze frame you can see the “stiff” blink, I begin to weep softly. Nothing can save us from the slow deterioration of art under scrutiny, even when undertaken with the purest of intention. If Goonies can’t be the perfect film about growing up poor and fighting escaped gangsters and dead pirate traps, what film can?
How can we even go on living with this knowledge of Goonies weighing as heavy on our souls as original sin? Nay, heavier still, for as the serpent’s apple gave us knowledge of good and evil, this knowledge, though just as damning, tells us only that when Brand steals the little girl’s bike to catch Mikey, the girl screams “My bike, my bike, I want my bike,” though her lips never move.
Now you know my inner torment. Perhaps I will never know joy again.