Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lil' Treasure Hunters (2004) and the Influence of The Goonies

Anyone interested in movies has a few that they grew up with.  The movies are a cherished part of their childhood.  They will always look fondly upon them.  Nostalgia may cloud their judgement, but the people grew up watching these movies repeatedly.  There is no taking away that lingering wistfulness that people keep for their childhood.  The movies that they watched remind them of their past.  They remind them of easier times, when the world wasn’t kicking them around like a soccer ball.

One staple of my childhood, as well as that of many other people, was The Goonies.  I adore the movie.  It is an action adventure movie for kids, about kids.  Movies like the Indiana Jones franchise were making it big in the 1980s, but they tended to be more adult in nature.  By that, I mean that the movies were made for adults, though they could cross over into child viewership.  The Goonies put that material on the level of children.  It was easier access and a good way to introduce children to those types of action adventure stories.

The basic story of The Goonies is fairly simple.  A group of kids went on an adventure to find treasure.  The treasure would give the children enough money to keep their homes and stay together as friends.  Along the way, they navigated booby traps and puzzles while avoiding criminals who were hot on their trail.  It’s not complicated, which makes it easier for children to enjoy.

Many of you might be thinking that The Goonies is not a bad movie.  Others of you will be thinking it is.  That doesn’t matter.  The Goonies is not the movie being covered for this week’s Sunday “Bad” Movies post.  But I needed to lay out this stuff about The Goonies before getting into my main topic.  That topic involves the influence that The Goonies has had on the movies since then.  I want to discuss the strange world of new millennium knock offs of The Goonies.  I’ve seen two recently as a part of his blog.

A month ago, I watched and wrote about Bark Ranger.  The story was heavily influenced by The Goonies.  If you remove the talking dog, Bark Ranger is about a kid and his girlfriend finding treasure so he can keep his home.  Along the way, the two kids solved puzzles to avoided booby traps.  They also outran a pair of criminals who were chasing them.  It was a newer version of The Goonies, but worse.

Let’s take a look at the first part.  The overall stories of the two are almost exactly the same.  In The Goonies, the homes were about to be foreclosed and the only way to stop it was for the families to get money.  The children discovered hidden treasure and headed out to find it.  If they could get that treasure, they would have the money to keep their homes.  Bark Ranger had the child’s family about to lose their home because the park in which his father works wasn’t making enough money to pay their mortgage.  The child learned about some hidden treasure and decided that getting the treasure would pay for their home.

What made the two movies even more similar was the bad guys.  The Goonies had The Fratellis (a mom and two sons) on the trail of the children, as they navigated through the booby traps and puzzles.  The two sons were the bumbling ones who fell into every trap as they attempted to catch those kids.  A similar pair of characters appeared in Bark Ranger.  Two thieving brothers stole a bunch of gold.  As the two children were searching for the treasure, they crossed paths with the brothers who then chased after them.  The brothers got caught in the booby traps while the children solved the puzzles and escaped without any harm.  In the end of both movies, the bad guys were arrested and the children found the treasure.

When I turned on Lil’ Treasure Hunters (also known as The Lil’ River Rats and the Adventure of the Lost Treasure), I felt like I was watching the same story once again.  There were kids.  There was treasure.  There was a home that needed to be paid for.  It was the same story beats repackaged in another kids’ movie.  It was essentially The Goonies.

The biggest difference between The Goonies and Lil’ Treasure Hunters was that the latter didn’t have the booby traps of the former.  The kids in Lil’ Treasure Hunters had a relatively safe voyage in search of treasure.  Sure, they come upon a waterfall and have to abandon ship, but that is much different than the set of elaborate traps that One Eyed Willy set up in The Goonies.  There was much less danger for these treasure hunters.

Much like the other two movies, Lil’ Treasure Hunters had villainous adults chasing the kids throughout the journey.  There was the woman who ran the local foster house, her assistant, and a man who was in town to find the treasure.  The three of them joined together in a group much like The Fratellis and tried to stop the kids from finding the treasure.  They bumbled around and caught up with the kids in time to have their secrets revealed before the police arrived and the kids got the treasure.

Do either of these movies hold up to The Goonies and what it has meant to children that have grown up since its release?  Some people might say so.  Some people don’t like The Goonies.  I, however, think The Goonies is one of the better children’s movies to come out in the past thirty-five years.  It brought wonder and adventure to children in an era where Indiana Jones was doing that for adults.  It inspired many movies that came after it.  The Goonies was quality wish fulfillment for children and there’s a reason that it has stood the test of time.

The two movies mentioned that were clearly inspired by The Goonies will not stand the test of time.  Lil’ Treasure Hunters is from 2003, and really, how many people have heard of it?  I’m sure that not many people who ever read this post will have heard of it.  The only reason I know about it is that it was in one of those 10 movie multipacks that I tend to buy for cheap at Walmart.  If it weren’t for me being a sucker for cheap movies, I would not know that this movie even exists.  The movie hasn’t left a lasting impact on cinema or children.

Bark Ranger, on the other hand, only came out last year.  It hasn’t had time to cultivate an audience.  Not that it will.  It was quickly moved from the main Walmart DVD rack to the back among the random movies.  I bought it because I wanted to feature it on the blog.  Were it not for that, I never would have gone near the movie.  Okay, I would have watched it based on the title, but I wouldn’t own it.  I can’t imagine it being a classic.

Why is there a group of movies made post-2000 that use elements from The Goonies?  Is it because that is a classic kids’ movie and they want to recapture the magic?  Are they simply trying to make some money by aping a movie from the 1980s?  The two that I’ve seen have not lived up to what The Goonies is.  They have not lived up to being good, entertaining movies.  I’m curious to see if there are others out there that fare better.  For now, these two are what I’ve seen and this niche is not a good one.
Now it’s time for a few notes:

  • Lil’ Treasure Hunters was directed by Dan T. Hall.  He also directed Old No. 587: The Great Train Robbery.
  • Lil’ Treasure Hunters featured a few actors from Old No. 587: The Great Train Robbery.  They were Ran Burns, Alex Hall, and director Dan T. Hall.
  • I mentioned Bark Ranger in this post.
  • Have you seen Lil’ Treasure Hunters?  Have you seen any other movies made after 2000 that took their stories from The Goonies?  Have you seen The Goonies?  You can discuss anything related to this post in the comments section below.
  • The comments are a good place to let me know about movies that might be fit into the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  Let me know your suggestions there or on Twitter.  They help me to schedule future weeks.
  • Sometimes I like to put up clips of the bad movies I watch on snapchat.  If you want to see these clips, find me with the username jurassicgriffin.
  • Next week’s movie is going to be The Stupids.  I’m not sure how good or bad the movie is as it somehow passed right by me in my childhood.  It’s a John Landis movie, so it can’t be all bad.  Anyway, I’ll see you next week for that one.

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