Over the weekend, director Richard Donner told TMZ (of all places) that he and Steven Spielberg are “doin’ a sequel” to The Goonies, with “hopefully all” of the original stars. One of those stars, Corey Feldman, took to Twitter to respond to the “literally thousands of tweets [and] FB messages” he received after the news broke, confirming that director Donner, producer Spielberg, and writer Chris Columbus are working on a sequel, though “I have yet to see a script, so I remain skeptical.” (Mr. Feldman does have standards, as anyone who saw the straight-to-video Lost Boys and Dream a Little Dream sequels can tell you.) And speaking of skepticism, we also got word over the weekend that Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street director Phil Lord and Chris Miller won’t be directing the long-discussed, yes-they’re-somehow-still-talking-about-this Ghostbusters III, not that their pass will affect that project. So your favorite family-friendly comedies from 1984 and 1985 are getting sequels, 30 years later. Yay?
Here’s the thing: your film editor is a child of the ‘80s. I was eight years old when Ghostbusters came out, and nine for The Goonies — in other words, precisely the target audience for those PG-rated action/comedies, which I devoured in the theaters and wore out on VHS. (They were these cartridges that were kinda like DVDs, except they looked like shit, and — never mind.) I’ve revisited those films fairly frequently in the years since, and they hold up pretty well (Ghostbusters more than Goonies, but still); I maintain a great deal of affection for them, both as their own entities and for how they remind me of my life the first time I saw them.
In other words, nostalgia weighs heavily when it comes to films like these, but nostalgia means different things to different people. My nostalgia for ‘80s movies and music and cartoons is all bound up in still-forming emotions and prepubescent anxiety; the simplicity of childhood, the heartbreak of a first crush, the never-waning desire to “go out and play” (one that Goonies specifically makes hay of). Movie studios and filmmakers with mortgages look at nostalgia and see dollar signs. The entire Donner “interview” — and I use the word loosely, because it’s basically a paparazzo shouting poorly phrased questions at him — is worth watching, not because he says anything particularly enlightening about the new Goonies, but for what he says before that, about the business of movies:
“They’re smart!” he says of the execs that seem incapable of green-lighting anything but comic book movies, remakes, reboots, and sequels. “That’s what the business is, it’s financial.” And that conversation is what leads to the Goonies sequel — not that there’s a compelling story to be told, or even that fans want to know where these characters ended up. “It’s financial.” There’s money to be made.
This is as good a time as any to note that Mr. Donner hasn’t directed a feature film since 2006’s (pretty good!) 16 Blocks. You know who else isn’t all that busy lately? Dan Aykroyd, who has spent the bulk of the last decade trying to get Ghostbusters III made, in spite of the fact that Bill Murray doesn’t want to do it, original director Ivan Reitman doesn’t want to do it, and co-writer/co-star Harold Ramis is no longer with us. (He hadn’t been dead a week when Sony clumsily announced that Ghostbusters III was still on. Super classy!)
So who actually wants them to make Ghostbusters III, at this point? (I mean, besides Aykroyd.) Or Goonies II? Some fans say they do, I guess — but do they really? Super-fans are a fickle bunch; look at the disappointment that many voiced after the challenging and occasionally problematic fourth season of Arrested Development dropped on Netflix. Or, to a lesser degree, witness the grumbling of some over the Veronica Mars movie. Those came out less than a decade after the original, beloved properties. Multiply that by three. The chances of either of these films actually satisfying any fan dedicated enough to want them are slim to none.
As much as I never thought I’d type these words, Corey Feldman is right: “As uoi [sic] know the idea has been recycled four [sic] yrs, but it can’t be done w/o a perfect script! We all must be certain that it doesn’t miss the magic of the original.” But the “magic of the original” is something that simply can’t be recreated — it’s too embedded in the moment, in the youthfulness of the cast, in the lack of cynicism onscreen. Goonies II or Ghostbusters III would, at this point, be nothing but filmed deals. Bill Murray, unsurprisingly, cuts to the heart of the matter; when the interview mentions that his longtime friends want him to do another one, he responds, “Man, do [my friends] want to do it? They kind of do. But someone with a lot more to gain than my friends wants to do it more than they want to do it. Right?”
Right. We give the millennials and their dopey ‘90s nostalgia a fair amount of grief, but here’s where ‘90s nostalgia beats ‘80s nostalgia: ‘90s kids aren’t old enough yet to run studios and green-light bullshit ‘90s nostalgia projects. The stream of ‘80s nostalgia movies, though, is endless — in spite of the fact that much of ’80s cinema only has nostalgia to offer. (Why, it was only last week that some wise soul offered up this bon mot: “Just because you liked something when you were a kid, doesn’t mean it was good.”) Goonies and Ghostbusters offered more than that, but trying to recapture what made them great will accomplish only one thing: making somebody else a lot of money. Goonies, as the line from the movie goes, never say die. But Goonies II should.