The Goonies

CD Review: The Goonies

I’m firmly convinced that you had to be a pre-pubescent boy in 1985 to appreciate THE GOONIES. When the movie premiered, I was far beyond the single- and early double-digits that this film is geared toward, so I found it to be silly. But I am a fan of Dave Grusin and I greeted the premiere release of the complete GOONIES score with at least some level of excitement.

Grusin’s end credit suite was the only score cue on the original LP, the rest of the album taken up by pop songs by Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, and a host of other MTV-friendly artists. You certainly can’t complain about the new CD’s running time. At 79:10, including four bonus tracks, the CD is a treasure trove for fans of Grusin’s score.

I have often derided the synth-heavy sound of a lot of scores from the ’80’s, and yet it is precisely those dated elements that I appreciate the most in Grusin’s film music from the period. The most obvious example here is the five-note descending motif for Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin) and the treasure map (played on a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer) that occurs throughout the score.

The only music I knew prior to the CD release was the delightful “Fratelli Chase,” which was combined with the “Plumbing” cue and featured on Grusin’s album, Cinemagic. The cue is fleet of foot and classically-tinged in its orchestration, with a charming touch of harpsichord. This same lightness can be found in later cues like “Water Slide and Galleon.”

The Goonies soundtrack
“Mama & Sloth”

But with any story that incorporates a treasure map, pirates, and the like, the score calls for a lot of action music. The John Williams/Jerry Goldsmith action mold that producer Steven Spielberg was so rightfully fond of seems an uncomfortable fit for Grusin. The score works much better when it plays to his melodic strengths and focuses on the heart of the story.

The score features a couple of themes that show off Grusin’s trademark gift for melody, tender tunes that tug at your heartstrings without sounding saccharine. The English horn line in “Wishing Well and the Fratellis Find Coin” is particularly lovely, while the heartwarming “Goonies Theme” (also featured in the end credits) captures the Goonies’ friendship and anchors the score. A combination of flute and ’80’s synths give “Mama & Sloth” a trademark Grusin sound and a melody I wish had been featured more in the score. (The fact that the cue ends with a clip from Max Steiner’s ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN also makes the heart of this Golden Ager go pitter patter.)

Robert Townson has given Grusin’s score the kind of treatment that this undervalued composer deserves. Mike Mattesino’s copious liner notes give us a broad overview of Grusin, Spielberg, the film, and the score, as well as the era in which the film was made.

Though I may not appreciate THE GOONIES as much as some film score fans, other “goon kids” will find this to be buried treasure.

  1. I have still not seen Goonies. I recall reviews at the time describing it as what you mention, fodder for prepubescents. Since I was past that stage as well, I never even bothered to see it. Glad there was a release of the score for all those folks who’ve been clamoring for it all these years. Wish someone would do the same for me by releasing Man From Atlantis…
    .-= That Neil Guy´s last blog ..Oldest Trick in the Book =-.

    1. Neil, even if you don’t like the film, it’s tough to dismiss The Goonies – if only on pedigree. As director, Richard Donner had a rare ability to evoke a childlike sense of wonder (in Superman and Ladyhawke), but unlike a lot of directors who could also do this, Donner possessed a real pro sense of craft as well. Coupled with Spielberg’s taste as producer, they made something that lasts. It’s far from perfect and annoyingly noisy, but coming one year after the second, largely subterranean Indiana Jones film, The Goonies served as a literal backyard adventure exploring similar adolescent territory – and agreeable so, IMHO.

      1. Hi Saul, thanks for commenting! That’s an interesting take on the film. I won’t speak for Neil, and I don’t want to hijack any response he may have, but I agree with you about Donner. The problems with the film IMO are due to Spielberg’s touch. The film to me is as junky as HOOK was. Perhaps if he’d stayed out of the way a bit more, I might have had more appreciation for the film. Then again, it would have been a totally different creature. I’ll shut up now. :)

      2. Saul, I think you’ll find that this is more of a Steven Spielberg film than a Richard Donner one. He directed some scenes, much in the same way that he did with Tobe Hooper on Poltergeist. The pacing and excitement levels are so much like Spielberg that I question how much creative control Donner had. If you compare it to Superman or any of his other films, it’s nothign like them. Yet compare The Goonies to E.T. Raiders of the lost ark, Jaws, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or even 1941 and you know who was in charge of the set, and not just as a producer.

        1. Jilly, the “Spielberg touch” you see is largely Spielberg’s longtime editor, Michael Kahn, who had enormous influence over the shape, pace and style of The Goonies. Even the use of music. (Had Donner’s regular editor at the time – the equally brilliant but stylistically different Stuart Baird – cut the film, it would have felt more “Donner-ish.”) And while there’s no question Spielberg himself was involved in the film – even to the point of shooting a bit of it, though mostly inserts and pickup shots – it was, from all accounts, nothing like the Poltergeist situation.

          1. It was EVERYTHING like Poltergeist situation actually Saul, so please don’t try and harp on and tell me that you know what you’re talking about, as you weren’t there. Corey Feldman told me that ”Spielberg and Donner were like co-directors” when I met him, and also mentioned Spielberg co-editing the film, directing a few scenes, and over seeing every aspect of the production, which is all the confirmation that I need. And why was Spielberg’s editor cutting the film and not Donner’s editor then? Seems a bit strange to me. All in all your pithy explanation that Michael Kahn was the reason for the films snappy pace and jovial excitement levels is ridiculous. He never worked on Jaws.

      3. The reason this film looks like it does it nothing to do with Richard Donner. Spielberg ghost directed The Goonies, just like he did with Poltergeist. He was there on the set every single day. Look at every other Richard Donner film and then look at every other Steven Spielberg film and see who’s style it closest resembles.

  2. Don’t scare me like that! It’s not the whole series, just the pilot telefilm. For a minute I thought I’d missed out on a release of the whole series. WHich, actually, I’m afraid to watch. I have such beautiful fond memories of the show I kind of hate to demolish them by seeing in the harsh light of day what the episodes were really like. But a release of the music from that pilot film would certainly do no harm to my precious memories.
    .-= That Neil Guy´s last blog ..Oldest Trick in the Book =-.

    1. Sorry if I got the details wrong. I didn’t look too closely at it. Considering some of the things that we’ve seen released, you never know.

  3. Pingback: May Recap | Film Score Click Track

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Stories
A Place in the Sun
Tell Mama, Tell Mama All