Thursday, February 7, 2013


The Continuing Adventures of Sloth and Chunk

It is a testament to the popularity of the classic 80s adolescent pirate treasure adventure film, The Goonies, that talks of a sequel continued even until the principle cast was in their early forties. However, I do think it was for the best that they avoided the temptation to make a sequel, particularly this far on. I don’t think that the feeling would be the same with an adult cast. I will admit, though, that vicariously partaking of the escapades of that rag-tag gang was a big moment in my childhood, and I know that many of my friends have a similar nostalgic feeling for the movie.  Back then, we certainly wanted a sequel. We would have loved to have been able to revisit that place of adventure and wonder. In addition, though, there were a number of questions that I, at least, would have liked answered.

Everyone remembers the end of the movie, after the search for pirate treasure and the narrow escape from the booby-trap filled cavern. The kids are reunited with their worried families on the beach, while at the same time being besieged by a horde of reporters, who treat the story as if the kids had been missing for 18 years instead of merely 18 hours. Then the Fratellis, the vicious family of criminals who had pursued the kids throughout the movie, inexplicably wander toward the gathering of family members, media, and law enforcement as if they wish to be caught, and the local asshole shows up to complete the foreclosure on the families’ houses to make way for the expansion of his country club. The Fratellis are arrested, except for Sloth, the good-hearted but deformed brother who had saved the kids from his kin. Chunk, the fat kid, who had bonded with Sloth earlier, offers to take Sloth into his home and take care of him. The happy ending is completed when the discovery of jewels in Mikey’s marble bag forestalls the foreclosures, and the previously doubting authorities finally believe the kids’ stories about the search for pirate treasure when One-Eyed Willie’s ship suddenly appears and sails off into the distance to the astonishment of all.

So here are my questions:

What happened to the ship? Didn’t anyone go after it? (In the DVD commentary, director Richard Donner joked that the coast guard went out and sunk it.)

Did an appraisal of the jewels in Mikey’s marble bag ever actually prove that they were valuable enough to take care of the back mortgage payments of the family’s homes? Were there any legal issues concerning ownership of the gems, or did the finders keepers argument prove salient?

I suppose that these are mere trivialities and that a sequel is hardly warranted to address them.  However, there is one thing about the ending that was so bizarre that it agonized me not to know what happened next: The adoption of Sloth.
I was eight years old when the movie came out, and a pretty skittish eight year old at that. And Sloth scared the living shit out me. His horrific, deformed visage was so unsettling that it took a long time after he had been established as an innocent and sympathetic character that I was able to look at him without blurring the screen’s image by peering between my fingers. Of course, by the end I was won over by this sweet-natured freak, whose good heart and considerable strength ends up saving the day.

Still, I was perturbed when Chunk embraced the newly freed and abandoned Sloth and told him that he and his family were going to take him in. I couldn’t imagine myself asking this hideous, foul-smelling creature into my home (Chunk established his pungent aroma early in the film, proclaiming that he “smelled like Phys-Ed”).  Was I the only one who found it odd that Chunk would invite a mentally disabled, psychologically marred, super-strong mutant from a family of criminals that he had known for less that day to live with him without even consulting his parents?

Who knows? Maybe a scene that ended up on the cutting room featured Chunk’s horrified mother and father, berating their son for his impulsive decision, smacking him upside the head a few times, screaming “Bist meshugeh?” (He was the Jewish kid, after all.) This would have been followed by the awkward scene where the parents tell Sloth that they are going to buy him some ice cream and “just to wait right here.”

After all, we have seen the kind of damage that this hulk of a man was capable of, even when well intentioned. Furthermore, Chunk and the audience have had only a thin slice of time in which to discern his overall temperament. We may have been seeing Sloth on a relatively good day. It is not unreasonable to postulate that someone with those kind of developmental disabilities, combined with years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his family, could suffer from terrible mood swings. While I have to assume that most psychologists would have severe issues with the Fratellis’ handling of the situation, I can only assume that there was a reason that Sloth was bound in chains and not merely left on a pile of pillows in front of the television. Can a modest one-family home in the Pacific Northwest be an ideal place for such a man?

Forget what happened to One-Eyed Willie’s ship. Forget any other adventures that the gang might have had searching for hidden treasure or holy relics. Forget the legal battle over the jewels. This is what I always wanted to see next: The continuing adventures of Sloth and Chunk. Let’s suppose that the Cohens (Chunk’s family) were so grateful to Chunk for saving their son that they decided to honor his wishes and try to find a way to house this creature somehow. I think that they were biting off more than they could chew.

I don’t want to see a sequel; I want to see a spin-off sitcom. Entitled Hey You Guys!!!,” (Sloth’s quaint version of a war cry from the movie) this show about the hilarious adventures of the Cohens, that rotund Jewish family from Oregon, and the loveable, but clumsy and potentially deadly Sloth, promises to be hilarious, surreal, disturbing, and often just plain gross.

The first episode entitled “Sloth Loves Chunk,” would show Sloth trying to assimilate to his new life. As Chunk is getting ready to go to school, Sloth begins to panic at the thought of being left behind. After several attempts to calm him, including an apparently ineffective dose of horse tranquilizers in his Ovaltine, it is decided that Sloth should accompany Chunk to school. At school, Sloth sees the torments that Chunk is exposed to on a daily basis, mostly from a gang of bullies who ridicule him for his weight. In the end, Sloth comforts Chunk, reminding him that he knows what it is like to be shunned and scorned. Chunk embraces Sloth and tells him that the bullying doesn’t bother him since he knows that he has one true friend. The episode ends happily when Sloth makes the bullies understand the error of their ways, appealing to their previously dormant senses of decency and sympathy with his simple and direct language along with a series of punishing, bone-crushing blows.

I already can imagine other hilarious episodes, like “Sloth goes to Shul,” which would play off of the cultural differences of this odd couple (Sloth is Italian, right?). It would begin with a lengthy scene in which Chunk tries in vain to get a yarmulke to stay on Sloth’s pointy head in preparation to go to synagogue for the Purim service. The episode would, of course, end with Sloth suffering from sensory overload by the loud noises of the groggers during the service, resulting in a tantrum which destroys most of the pews and inflicts some disfiguring, but not life threatening,  injuries to a couple of Rabbis. Coming to his senses, the shocked and remorseful Sloth shrugs, looks at the camera and quietly says “uh ohhhhh.”

Director Richard Donner and Exec. Producer Steven Spielberg
Neither of these men would approve of this spin-off
 I am currently at work on the teleplay for a “very special episode” entitled “Sloth in Heat.” In this episode, Sloth begins to exhibit odd behavior of an amorous nature, cornering Chunk’s mother in the kitchen and licking her face repeatedly. After being felled by a taser and a tranquilizer dart, Mrs. Cohen has a sit down with Sloth during which it is discovered that Ma Frattelli never told Sloth about “the birds and the bees” and thus he never learned the meaning of these strange feelings that laid dormant inside of him. Chunk decides that it will be his job to find Sloth a girlfriend, and sits down with Sloth to write a classified ad to put in the Daily Astorian. However, while Chunk is lost in thought, trying to come up with a euphemism for “hideous,” the twisted hormone-tweaked goliath sneaks off to force his violent, mutated lust at the grandmother, who lives upstairs. Oblivious to this, Chunk finishes the letter and begins to read it to his mother. Then, Sloth, now a man of the world, reenters, coming down the stairs wearing silk pajamas and smoking a Nat Sherman in a diamond studded cigarette holder (the bloody scene and its aftermath of pulverized internal organs splattered on the wall and caked with fist-sized globs of green, puss-like, freak jism is not shown; it is a family show after all). Chuck and his mother share a confused look before Chunk’s sister enters screaming “Mommy, Mommy! There’s something wrong with Bubbe!!!”

“Uh ohhhh!”

Uh, yeah. They’ll probably never make that show.