Hoai-Tran Bui: The Goonies

Murderous gangs, treasure maps, and of course, kids on bikes. It’s the holy trifecta of a great “kids on an adventure” movie, and it’s the reason why The Goonies is such a non-stop, delightful ride. While it doesn’t quite have the elegance of the era’s foremost kid adventure movie, E.T., The Goonies holds a special place in my heart. Because it’s just so darn silly.

The Goonies feels like it was made for kids by kids. The story, about a group of friends who go on a hunt for legendary pirate treasure to stave off a development forcing them out of their homes, is exactly what a child would imagine a real adventure to be. Led by a baby Sean Astin and Josh Brolin in his first role, the group of teens has a crackling chemistry that you can’t replicate. Many kid adventure movies follow a hero who’s an outcast or a loner, but this never feels like the case here. The Goonies is about community, and a group of friends who stay together through thick and thin — even if a few of the older kids feel like bonafide babysitters.

The Goonies doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is what makes it so paramount in this particular genre. The stakes are high, but the dangers don’t quite feel real — it’s like going on a theme park ride where you know you will come out okay in the end. The villainous Fratellis are cartoonish at best, and the abundance of skeletons that the kids run into only makes The Goonies feel more like a fantasy. But what a great fantasy it is.

Matt Donato: The Pagemaster

Some 20-or-so years ago, my VHS copy of ?The Pagemaster? unraveled from being replayed on the regular. Spinning then rewinding, each watch an animated landscape of limitless adventure. Did I see myself as 10-year-old Richard Tyler, who lived a calculated life without peril? Not at the time, but looking back now helps illuminate why I was so drawn (ha) to Macaulay Culkin’s literary soul-searching. My own risk-aversion ended up steering me towards dark fantasies with sinister illustrations, as I sought comfort in the words of Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, and Frank Welker.

To no shock, Lil’ Donato’s favorite anthropomorphic novel sidekick was Horror (Welker) – his world ruled by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Leonard Nimoy). Adventure (Stewart) and Fantasy (Goldberg) earned their place as guardians of the library realms, but, unsurprisingly, Horror was my buddy. A misfit defined by his goofy nature, sometimes teased but still allowed to play hero. Because, yeah – deduce away at that meaning. Never sell cinema short and what it can mean to someone.

Plus, I’m the horror guy. Don’t internet bylaws demand my commitment to brand?

The Pagemaster? is a dashing 1990s callback to cartoon designs that never sacrifice detail or composure. Whether not-real Richard faces Mr. Hyde, Moby Dick or Long John Silver’s pirate crew, artist strokes sense danger and define overwhelming circumstances (Ahab’s rage-red harpoon attack). Monsters are created from color and sketched lines in ways that CGI cannot replicate, most memorably as Moby Dick’s incensed eyes charge furiously from the deep. These are the moments that gripped me as a child, granting a lively scare I didn’t even know I was looking for – and what a (visual) page-turner it is.

Lindsey Romain: Adventures in Babysitting

The boys get the bulk of adventure-based movies (one of the reasons I’m so excited for A Wrinkle in Time), and while I love so many of them, my favorite of the genre is Adventures in Babysitting. I wanted to be Elisabeth Shue, the beautiful babysitter with her suburban-girl glamor. She was so cool, but so real to me; her beauty masking a downright anxious core, one that gets her and the kids she sits for into a whole mess of trouble. The characters don’t chart some magical land or solve some beyond-their-years mystery. Instead, they get lost in inner-city Chicago and have to find their way home before their parents arrive.

It’s a silly movie loaded with terrible Chicago stereotypes – knife fights on the El, drug dealers, car jackers, south side blues clubs – but it’s imbued with so much heart and chutzpah that I love it anyway. It certainly doesn’t make me miss babysitting, but it does make me miss being a kid like the youngest daughter, Sara, a delightful little weirdo who’s obsessed with Thor and lost in the whimsy of her own imagination. To her, the city isn’t a scary place, but some magical realm ripe for exploring. As a Chicagoan, I wish I could look at the city around me with that same innocence again. That’s the power of a good adventure story. 

Ben Pearson: Attack the Block

A lot of the classics have already been picked by my fellow writers, so I’ll go with something a little more modern. Joe Cornish’s 2011 sci-fi comedy Attack the Block is as confident and exciting a directorial debut as I’ve seen in years. The film opens with a group of teen gang members terrorizing a young woman, but they quickly join forces when an alien invasion occurs near their crappy apartment building. Many films in this genre are pretty wholesome, but this ain’t one of ’em. It’s packed with drugs and swearing, but there’s also a sweetness that permeates its characters’ supposedly tough exteriors.

Attack the Block is an invasion story, but it’s also about the responsibilities of growing up – especially for Moses, the gang’s leader. John Boyega burst on the scene in a huge way with that role, mixing fun catch phrases (“Allow it!”), impressive physicality, and a deep sadness beneath his eyes; that combination instantly announced him as a star in the making. Through it all, the teen gang members (who have nicknames like “Pest,” “Biggz,” and “Mayhem”) alternate between braggadocios swagger and being genuinely terrified by the neon-mouthed aliens that are hunting them. It’s a magnificent sci-fi adventure film that I would have loved to have been obsessed with when I was 12 years old.

Pages: Previous page 1 2

Cool Posts From Around the Web: