The Boonies isn’t a strangely titled spin-off from The Goonies but is in fact a film all about a group of friends who have that name as they’re huge fans of Richard Donner’s much loved eighties movie – or at least they were back when they were ten years old. But sadly over the years friendships have fractured and they’ve all grown apart, and now pretty much the only contact they have is to exchange the odd insult or withering look.
That’s all set to change though as one of them, Doug (Calum Worthy), has died in a car explosion, but before his demise rather thoughtfully recorded a series of videos that will let his friends not only discover just who murdered him but also find a briefcase that contains one million one hundred and sixty four thousand dollars. Which is more than enough for Teddy (Cody Ko), Holly (Andi Matichak), Chuck (Kyle Jones), Stephanie (Lauren Elizabeth) and Elektra (Amymarie Gaertner) to reunite and spend one night in the school, following a bunch of clues they mysteriously receive from Doug’s phone. They’re not alone however, as a bunch of other kids are also hoping to get the money before our heroes do.
It’s a set up which not only allows the movie to send up high school movie tropes, with the character’s being variously jocks, goths, nerds and a number of other types of student, but also go on a treasure hunt while doing their very best not to die. Said treasure hunt isn’t that complicated and as the clues are easily solved most of the time it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity, but it does at least give the characters a chance to bond which was of course Doug’s plan all along.
There is a fair amount to like about the movie, Chuck is an inspired character who gets a lot of the film’s best lines (the way he utters “My huge penis broke my fall” after getting hit by a car being the funniest, though his confession that he masturbates over pictures of Hilary Clinton comes a close second), there’s strong physical comedy in the form of some daft slow motion jumping away from a non-existent bomb and a great food fight between the characters (and boy have school dinners never looked less appealing), while the gang slowly reconnecting is appealing too, with the film definitely improving once they stop bickering and grow closer.
But despite being amiable enough The Boonies is only quite a good film. There’s nothing bad about it in the slightest but the plot goes from A to B with very few deviations, the (slight) twist could be guessed by a six year old, and the meta element with Doug commenting from beyond the grave is only mildly amusing. Meanwhile Stephanie’s PG rated insults of the group occasionally irritate, the antics of the cheerleaders and outcasts who also want the money feel a bit forced, and much of the dialogue is perfunctory but rarely more than that.
It has the feel of a tv pilot and certainly the short run time (with the film only lasting 75 minutes) and the coda at the end of the movie suggests this even more so, and despite showing a lot of promise and featuring a great cast, some decent direction and an interesting storyline it doesn’t quite do enough to be the kind of film that anyone will ever love. It’s something you won’t regret watching, then, but not something you’d ever find yourself recommending to anyone you know.