Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One-Eyed Willie's World O' Whimsy

In 1985, Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner and Chris Columbus unleashed upon the American public The Goonies, a modern day adventure tale about a rough and tumble bunch of ragamuffins who go on crazy adventures through pirate caves to enrich both their families and their lives. To many children of the time, it was a laugh a minute funfest full of whimsy and good times, even disregarding the vulgar language, psychological torture, testicular trauma, murder, gunplay, drug jokes and potential death at every turn. (I'm sure more than one or two parents were upset by it.)

But surprisingly enough, I'm not going to launch into one of my expected tirades about the "dark and seemy underbelly" of The Goonies. Nah. All of that is pretty apparent in my eyes, and bears little point in dissection. However, I was able to attend a theatrical screening of this film last week with Captain Colitis and apart from the obvious fun we experienced seeing a film on the big screen that we both had memorized, we couldn't help but pick apart the things that had always bugged us about it. Not that the film is bad, per se, but that certain aspects just don't stand up to logic.

For instance, in order to enter Mikey's house at the beginning of the film, Chunk is required to do "The Truffle Shuffle". (NOTE: He does not shuffle. He shimmies and shakes.) After successfully completing this task, the gang sets about to opening the gate for him. This involves a monstrous Rube Goldberg contraption complete with an egg laying chicken, a sprinkler, a football and other potential points of failure. If one little item does not perform exactly as intended, are we to assume that Chunk cannot enter? Is it really worth having a machine that requires 40 minutes of prep work just to open a gate without leaving the house? Couldn't Chunk just have said screw it and opened the gate himself? How do Mikey's parents get in and out of the house?

Early in the film, Mouth offers to translate Mrs. Walsh's instructions into Spanish for Rosalita, as she does not speak a word of English. (No mention is given as to HOW Mrs. Walsh hired her if that's the case.) Mouth proceeds to mistranslate everything that's said, leading Rosalita to believe that she is caring for a house of sexually deviant drug dealers who will punish her by locking her in a closet with the roaches if she does not do her job properly. WHY THE HELL DOES SHE STAY? She remains with the family throughout the film. Is Rosalita ALSO a drug using sexual deviant? I love kid's movies.

Why the hell does Mikey's dad have all of the town museum's stuff in his attic? I mean this guy LITERALLY has an entire attic full of stuff that's not his, but apparently this is no big deal. Does nobody notice the pirate maps, old clothing, rare paintings and other odds and ends that he's been hiding away? It would seem to me that most museums would eschew the personal collection of THEIR artifacts. This isn't New York we're talking about, it's Astoria, Oregon. They must have one hell of a collection still at their tiny, two room museum to not care about the asstons of paraphernalia and ephemera that Mr. Walsh has stowed away.

And for that matter, if they're about to get kicked out of their house, why haven't they started packing? The house hasn't even so much as been touched yet, and it's pretty evident that this is a packrat family. Shouldn't we see some boxes? Shouldn't SOME effort have been made to start the process?

It's a good thing that Mikey's dad had all that shit in the attic, though, as that's where the 400 year old pirate map happens to be. And fortunately, Mouth is capable of reading and immediately translating Spanish, even older varieties not based on Americanized slang. I've always loved the fact that Willie took the time when writing the map to make sure that everything he wrote would rhyme when translated into an English dialect that wouldn't exist for several hundred years. One of the many, many ways in which Willie was truly a visionary.

As the Goonies dash out of Mikey's house they stop to let the air out of Brand's tires. Mikey throws a little fit pointing out that it took Brand "376 lawnmower jobs to pay for that, it's his most favorite thing in the world".

Now, let's analyze that statement for a second. Brand's bike, while nice, is just your run of the mill BMX style bike. Brand mowed 376 lawns to earn the money for that bike. This movie was filmed in 1984, so for the sake of it, we'll assume that he charged $10 per mowing. That would mean that this bike was AT LEAST $3,000. Even going by a conservative estimate of $5 per lawn, you're still looking at $1,850 or so for that bike.

Well, I went and did some research and pulled up various bike catalogs from that time frame. From what I can see, a really nice BMX bike at the time was about $400, and a nice touring bike was about $279. We'll go with the high estimate BMX bike at $500. By Mikey's reasoning, we can safely assume that Brand charges roughly $1.33 to mow a lawn. That's a really good price, even by 1984 standards.

Of course, this entire argument is rendered moot once Brand escapes from the house to chase after the Goonies. He hops on his prized possession and tries to take off, only to discover that his tires are flat. And what does Brand scream at this point?

"What? My new tires! They popped my new tires!" Brand's frustration is almost palpable. I mean, who wouldn't be upset if their $3,760 tires were popped. By comparison, a complete set of 4 Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 max performance summer tires for a 2007 Ferrari 612 Scagiletti will run you about $2,016 in modern dollars.

That is one HELL of a bike.

So, off the Goonies go to begin their adventure, before long finding themselves at an abandoned restaurant now being used as home base for the evil Fratellis. Of course, the Fratellis seem to waver between calculated, insidious evil and rampant buffoonery, depending on the nature of the scene.

After an initial confrontation Mikey asks to use the restroom so that he can scope out the lower floor to try and find the entry point to One-Eyed Willie's treasure. This, of course, is where he first encounters Sloth, the hideously deformed and dangerously violent Fratelli who spends his life chained to a wall, having his meals thrown at him due to his lack of appreciation for opera.

In spite of the fact that his life is spent CHAINED TO A WALL, Sloth has 50 inch biceps and is quite capable of breaking his chains any time he wants. However, he seems content to be dehumanized, starved and left to rot instead of making any moves to improve his lot in life.

After discovering the horrifically mutated, seemingly violent tempered and semi-retarded man-child in the basement, Mikey runs in terror, only to be blase about any further encounters with this monster once he returns with the rest of the gang.

By this point Brand has managed to catch up with the Goonies, even after the near-fatal "whacky prank" played on him by Troy. Feeling sympathetic for poor Brand, Andi drags her friend Stef along as they track him down to offer apologies for Troy's homicidal behavior.

But this is a kid's movie, so after finding the executed corpse in the ice cream freezer and making references to naked photos of one another's mothers, the kids begin their crazy adventures in the long forgotten and untraversable caves of pirate antiquity.

By long forgotten, of course, I am referring to the fact that every major stop in town seems to be built into the caverns themselves. The plumbing system for the country club is down there, as some form of piping for a road, as well as the town wishing well. Yep, aside from the few large and unmistakably modern sections, this ENTIRE area is LONG FORGOTTEN. Except when they have to fix the piping or empty the wishing well.

Thankfully, though, the Goonies are awesome little adventurers, as they manage to catch up to the corpse of Chester Copperpot after about TEN MINUTES of adventuring. Not bad. This guy was an ACTUAL TREASURE HUNTER and they're a bunch of 10 year olds, yet they managed to match his life's accomplishments in a handful of minutes. By the way, Chester SUCKED ASS as an adventurer, as he hadn't done anything dangerous yet and in fact died in the same room as an UNTRIGGERED booby trap.

Idiot. I guess he died of old age somewhere along the quarter mile of adventuring he managed.

Chester's corpse is where the kids first get their hands on those crazy candles. But we, as audience, know better. Those aren't candles, they're DYNAMITE!!!! How do we know this? Well, luckily for us EVERY SINGLE TIME somebody pulls those things out, there's ALWAYS ONE that's colored differently and turned so that the word dynamite is facing right at the camera. But those silly kids NEVER NOTICE!

Wocka, wocka, wocka!

The kids continue their zany adventures while their poor and much maligned "friend" Chunk ends up being captured by the Fratellis and TORTURED. Yes, that's right, the Goonies learn lessons about friendship, caring and togetherness while Chunk is threatened with having his hand pureed. Nobody cares about Chunk, though, and his crepulent and acrimonious character continues to grind the nerves of EVERYBODY; Fratellis, Goonies, and theater patrons included.

Onward the movie plods, with the Fratellis now in pursuit of the Goonies, hoping to get their own hands on "One-Eyed Willie" before the kids manage to. But the further along the Goonies get, the more elaborate the traps that Willie has laid become. One room finds them in front of a decomposing organ, a cadaverous musical contraption made from the fingers and bones of several (I'd wager at least 5, considering there appear to be 88 keys) pirates.

This particular invention has always bugged the hell out of me. How in the hell did Willie build this thing? On top of being a bloodthirsty pirate, was he also an out of work organ constructionist? How long did he spend figuring out the resonance of each bone he used? Did he hack a little bit too much off one particular femur and then realize that it had dropped half a tone? Did he have help doing this? If so, who and furthermore, WHY? It seems an awful lot of work just for the sake of stopping someone from potentially stealing your treasure AFTER YOU'RE DEAD.

Were there ghost pirates (or pirate ghosts) that kept a watchful eye on the piano, ensuring that it doesn't go out of tune? What kind of triggering mechanism did he use to ensure that only certain portions of the floor caved in if the dreaded A major chord was played? Was that particular room already lacking a floor? So, did he construct the floor AND the triggering mechanism?

I'm beginning to think that One-Eyed Willie was a renaissance man. Perhaps he turned to a life of piracy because he was shunned for his egregious displays of super intelligence. I mean the man can steal treasure, construct booby traps, build musical instruments, lay down flooring and write prose that rhymes in other languages. That's damn impressive.

I suppose it's lucky for the Goonies that Willie bothered to transcribe the appropriate notes on the back of the map. Which brings up another point, WHY did Willie leave a map? This was HIS treasure and he STAYED with it! Why the hell would he bother telling ANYBODY how to find it, let alone give them the doubloon, key, sheet music and a series of warnings regarding all the other traps. How about you just not tell anybody? Just keep it a secret? The fewer people there are TRYING to find your treasure, the fewer that will actually find it.

But those plucky kids manage to make their way past that nefarious trap, only to find themselves face to face with Willie's waterslide. This doesn't have any real trap element to it, it's just a really cool and fun thing that Willie slapped together for any would be treasure hunters. I imagine that this also took a good amount of time to slap together, as he managed to carve out 3 individual routes that the slide could take, all intermingling with one another, as well as devise a pumping method to keep them flushed with water.

An engineer for the ages.

After riding the waterslide, the gang ends up face to face with Willie's ship, conveniently hidden away in a sealed cave. Upon boarding this vessel they find themselves confronted by the decayed corpses of a zillion pirates that Willie has killed. They're still around because Willie hadn't found the time to turn them into xylophones or theremins or whatever nefarious traps he may have constructed from their bones. He did manage to leave one skeleton perched at the wheel with a dagger in each eye. That was probably "No-Eyed Billie", the heir apparent to the throne of Willie. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Mikey makes his way into a large room, only to find himself confronted by the bulk of Willie's treasure and Willie himself. Crossing to the corpse he pulls back Willie's eye patch to figure out why they call him One-Eye. He jumps back with a shiver when he discovers that Willie lacks a second eye socket.

"I guess that's why they call you One-Eyed Willie," he quips. The startled jump is what makes this scene. He has just risked life and limb countless times during his adventure. He has dealt with a group of murderous killers, survived crushing boulders, hordes of bats, spike filled pits, and death pianos, only to finally lose his resolve at the sight of an eye socket that's not there.

EEK!!! A solid spot of bone!

Of course, the Fratellis come and ruin all the fun and more zaniness ensues, with violent man-child Sloth saving the day through beatings and brute force.

Mother Fratelli ends up setting off Willie's final trap, however, by taking the gold directly from his own scale. Another leap of logic. So, you're a pirate and you've got all this gold that you've gone to ALL THIS TROUBLE to protect. Assuming somebody finally makes their way to your treasure, what would their logical punishment be? Well, to break down the cave and set sail, of course. Now that they've stolen your plunder, you certainly wouldn't want them to be sealed in a cave for all eternity, now would you? OF COURSE NOT! Hoist the anchor and set sail for adventure, captain!

Finally, good wins out, the kids get to keep their houses and the Fratellis get their comeuppance. Except Sloth. No, Chunk announces (without even ASKING his parents) that the violent man-child who has spent his life chained in a dank cellar can come live with him. If his parents allow that, they are pussies, plain and simple.

And there you have it. The Goonies is certainly an entertaining film, it just leaves a few leaps of logic in place. I would say that kids don't notice that kind of stuff, but everything I've mentioned here has bugged me for years.

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GeologyJoe said...

A complete and accurate assessment E. Nice.

E said...

Thank you. :)

Anonymous said...

The only thing I can say E is that D & G would agree with me that "its in the script" leaving all sorts of lgic out and about to be triped over by the likes of you. PEace. Fluff

E said...

I think adding logic would have increased the budget by 1.7 million. You have to cut corners somewhere.