Cinema: This Way to the Children's Crusade

Spielberg presents two movies with guts, brains and a little heart

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Ah, the rites of summer! Baseball and sunbathing. Picnics by the old swimming hole. Heat prostration and killer mosquitoes. Steven Spielberg movies. For the fifth consecutive summer, this tireless auteur-mogul has placed his name on a fantasy adventure or two designed to turn sentient adults into wonder-lusting children. Spielberg directed neither of the inevitable hits before us: he wrote the story and served as an executive producer of The Goonies; he shepherded Back to the Future toward production, then pretty much left the film's creators on their merry own. But his candy-smirched fingerprints are evident on both projects. Like Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies is all bustle and noise and adolescent ingenuity. Like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future has a gentler pace and a heart as big as all suburbia. Both new pictures trumpet the familiar Spielberg moral: stranded in the wilderness of kiddom, American youth can fight its way out and help its parents survive.

You could say that The Goonies is not so much a movie as the kinetic model for a theme-park attraction: the Pirate Fun House (& Restaurant). Tiptoe past the men's room and peek at a SCARY MONSTER! Crawl through a fireplace into a SPOOKY CHAMBER! Elude the clutches of an EVIL ITALIAN GANG! See the underground WATERFALL, the infernal CANNONBALL, the DEATH ORGAN and the very many SKELETONS! Hurtle down the FLUME to the cavern containing a genuine imitation 17th century PIRATE SHIP! Get out ALIVE! (And have a nice day.) As in any fun house, the pleasures here are as subtle as a rattrap sprung on a boy's foot. Dense, oppressively frenetic, heavy on the slapstick and low on the charm meter, the film asks to be experienced, not cherished. This efficient thrill machine contains gag homages to its makers' earlier work (E.T., Screenwriter Chris Columbus' Gremlins, Director Richard Donner's Superman) and even self-critical lines of dialogue ("I feel like I'm baby- sitting except I'm not getting paid").

Which is only to say that The Goonies is as hip, sassy and innocent as its seven teenage heroes. In the Spielberg tradition, each youngster uses his or her ordinary strengths to forge, and then save, a community of lost souls. Wise-Guy Mouth (Corey Feldman) translates the Spanish on an old map; Data (Ke Huy-Quan) gets out of scrapes with his Rube Goldberg gadgets; pretty Andy (Kerri Green) plays the Death Organ; Stef (Martha Plimpton) socks a crone on the jaw; Chunk (Jeff B. Cohen) finds an unlikely friend who loves junk food as much as he does; athletic Brand (Josh Brolin) muscles his way through calamity; and his little brother Mikey (Sean Astin), a dreamy hypochondriac, goads his fellow Goonies toward their rendezvous with a storybook pirate. The Goonies is like a clubhouse where every Boy's Life adventure comes true. And on the door hangs a sign: ADULTS KEEP OUT.

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