29th Nov2019

‘The Boonies’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Cody Ko, Amymarie Gaertner, Lauren Elizabeth, Chris Galya, Kyle Jones, Andi Matichak, Calum Worthy, Wyntergrace Williams, Gigi Zumbado, Logan Garretson | Written and Directed by Brad T. Gottfred

boonies-poster

The Boonies, and yes that is undoubtedly a play on THAT more famous 80s action-adventure comedy, sees five seniors – who were childhood best friends who nicknamed themselves The Boonies – become reunited after a dead classmates video reveals a million dollar treasure hunt inside Boone high school (Boonies, Boone High School, geddit?)

I’m not going to lie, about 30 minutes into The Boonies I realised that I’d totally zoned out and was not paying attention to what was going on in the film. Why? Well for a lot of this films initial running time it’s a cliched, stereotypical character-filled, homage to the kids films of the 80s. But a bad homage. Maybe it’s because the title is a riff on The Goonies and I was expecting something more, or maybe it’s because the film is, for that first third, more interested in stupid antics and the treasure hunt situation. Whatever it was, I lost interest in The Boonies completely. But then something happened…

The Boonies stopped being about the treasure hunt, about the stereotypical behaviour of the characters, and instead started to focus on the long-standing relationships between the titular group of teens. It started to reveal that these stereotypes had a little more depth, fleshing out the groups story and in turn making the film less about the adventure and more about the pressures  of high school – how peer pressure can change people, how growing up can change relationships and how you can, with some work, rekindle long-lost friendships. That one of the characters literally fakes his death to do that, is a hilarious concept that provides both a surprise and lot of the laughs.

And that shift in focus certainly shifted my focus, I became interested in The Boonies once again, actually invested in how the film would play out to its conclusion. That shift also changed the performances of the cast. No longer are the characters two dimensional cliches, they become more well-rounded, given more emotional depth and the characters generally felt more human, more real than before. Though of the cast it’s ultimately Calum Worthy, as the not-dead Doug, who’s the real standout – the moment he appears alongside the rest of the cast the entire ensemble feels elevated – either by his performance, which is uniformally excellent, or because of his performance (insomuch that the rest of the cast seem to raise their game when he joins them).

If only the entire film could’ve been as good as the latter half. Maybe then we could have had an indie gem on our hands. As it is now I’d stay stick with it and you too might find yourself pleasantly surprised. Just don’t go expecting The Goonies all over again, this film is a entirely different beast altogether!

*** 3/5

The Boonies is out now on Amazon, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, and Fandango.

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