I sometimes worry that my kids are watching the wrong kind of films. They seem to exist purely on a diet of animated films – which isn’t that bad considering how well made the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks films are – but those films are always very full-on, very colourful and not exactly subtle.
I fear that when their tastes develop, they won’t appreciate nuance. Or that they won’t understand the joy of a perfectly composed camera shot. But most of all, I worry that they’ll find live-action films boring. It’s a fear that’s probably shared by lots of cinephile parents: have animated films turned my children into ADD viewers?
My kids are a range of ages – seven, six and four at the time of writing – so it’s hard to judge what’s appropriate for them. They’ve seen – and love – the first Star Wars film (by that, I mean Episode IV, not Episode I – I’m not an animal). My wife’s also shown them a few live-action classics like Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. I’m just eager to show them all of the films I was watching at their age. I tried them on Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie about six months ago and it was “too scary” for the eldest and the youngest. Middle-child seems to be unaffected by anything she sees.
I saw Return Of The Jedi and Octopussy at the cinema when I was weeks away from turning five (and Never Say Never Again a few months later in that most Bondiest of years), and had been watching recent films of the same ilk – For Your Eyes Only, The Empire Strikes Back – on video at home, yet here’s my 7-year old saying that a 40-year old superhero film is too frightening.
My almost-desperate need for them to like Bond films led me to showing them a couple of exciting moments from a few films – the Lotus Esprit driving off the dock in The Spy Who Loved Me, and the AMC Hornet barrel-roll in The Man With The Golden Gun – but none of them seemed to show any interest. My middle-child has been saying ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond’ to me in recent weeks, so perhaps there is some hope…
I recently showed them The Goonies, another Richard Donner film, and an evergreen favourite of mine since its release. It’s now generally accepted as a classic ‘80s kids film, but I don’t seem to remember it having such universal acclaim when I was growing up. The only people who liked it were myself and other weird non-sporty kids who liked action and sci-fi films. I never heard girls discussing The Goonies. They talked a lot about Bros and New Kids On The Block maybe, but never Back To The Future or Explorers. Maybe I was talking to the wrong girls.
I had better luck with The Goonies. My eldest – the scaredy-cat of the three – thought parts were too frightening, and watched half of it from behind the couch. The youngest fell apart at the scene where Sloth is introduced to Chunk, and didn’t watch any more. Middle child – again – loved every minute. I think she might end up being my cinema-buddy when she’s older.
The Goonies – alongside Back To The Future – might just be the most Spielbergian of the films the wunderkind is involved in but didn’t direct. In more recent times he’s lent his name to the likes of Super 8, but that film felt like a cheap attempt at capturing the spirit of Donner’s 1985 film: all style, no substance. Of course, Stranger Things owes more than a little to this film – although the ‘boys on BMXs investigating a mystery in small-town America’ trope is really only apparent in the first season.
I saw The Goonies at a midnight screening at Glastonbury one year with my wife. Three things stuck in my mind about the experience. Firstly, a drunk guy casually asked a girl if he could sit in the empty camping chair next to hers. She said that no, he couldn’t sit in her friend’s chair, and loudly proclaimed as he walked away, ‘What a loser; did he think all these chairs were just put here?” Secondly, as the Walsh father is about to sign the house over in the film, one clever guy in the audience shouted out ‘CHECK YOUR POCKETS!’ to a huge laugh. The drunk guy from earlier then repeated it, to little response. Yes, drunk, stupid and also a joke thief. The third and final take-out from the screening is that due to sound issues on the quite scratchy print, the dialogue wasn’t fully audible. As a result, the worse thing happened. My wife, who had never seen the film before, dismissed it as a bad film. She’s since watched it at home on her own and loved it – although due to her bad memory – she now can’t remember either watching it or praising it.
Listening to Dave Grusin’s fabulous score to the film, I’m really quite glad that it wasn’t composed by John Williams or any other Spielberg alumn like Alan Silvestri. I love both those guys, but Grusin’s score has such a childlike quality to it that would be hard to find in another composer. A Williams or Silvestri score to The Goonies would of course be excellent in their own right, but I’m just glad Donner and Spielberg chose Dave Grusin for this particular project. And given the connection to John Williams through Spielberg, it was that nice that he references Williams’ Superman: The Movie theme in the sequence on board the pirate ship.
This copy is from Varèse Sarabande’s 2018 first pressing of Grusin’s full score, on ‘Willy’s Gold’ double-vinyl (no. 477 of 750).
HEY YOU GUYYYYYYYYYYSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hit: Fratelli Chase
Hidden Gem: The Fighting Fratellis, Sloth’s Choice And Ultimate Booby Trap