As much as I love the movie version of “Jurassic Park,” there’s a bit of dialogue that’s always bugged me. In one scene, John Hammond and Ellie Sattler are in the visitor center restaurant talking about the mess they’re in. Hammond has just gone on a bit about the first attraction he created as a young man, a flea circus, and Sattler responds with, “But you can't think through this one, John. You have to feel it.”
Let’s see, Mr. Hammond. Your grandkids are missing, your park’s power and computer systems are down, and dinosaurs are loose everywhere. How does that make you feel?
Well, let me think about that for a minute…
AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! WE’RE DOOMED!!! AND IT’S ALL MY FAULT!!!
Soooo that lovely mix of panic and despair is helpful how? Considering the state of things, Dr. Sattler, maybe putting the emotions aside for a bit and trying to come up a decent solution to the problem at hand isn’t such a bad idea. Sure, maybe a bit of self-reflection and understanding that he was playing with forces he couldn’t control would be a good thing for John Hammond, but how about we save that for a time when we aren’t trapped on an island full of things that want to eat us? Okay?
My bigger problem with Sattler’s line is that it’s a complete non-sequitur from what Hammond was just talking about. Hammond (Why do I hear Jeremy Clarkson’s voice in my head screaming “HAMMOND!” every time I type that name? Possibly because I watch too much “Top Gear.”) is talking about his flea circus and actually seems a bit nostalgic about the whole thing when Sattler cuts in with her admonition that he needs to feel this. What? I’ve wondered ever since the movie came out whether or not there was some additional dialogue cut from that scene. As it stands, the line makes no sense given the circumstances.
“Jurassic Park” isn’t the only movie with nonsensical dialogue, though. It’s just one where the line was so bad that it stood out to me immediately. There’s another from one of my favorite childhood films, “The Goonies,” that’s guilty.
I was the perfect age for “The Goonies” when it came out. Here were a bunch of kids about my age having this huge adventure with pirate treasure and criminals and booby traps and caves and a giant water slide and WHY WAS THIS NOT HAPPENING TO ME?
Sean Astin’s Mikey was my favorite character of the group. While I didn’t have asthma or need an inhaler, I had bad enough allergies that I could understand what he was dealing with. He was also the most normal of the group (It didn’t hurt that he got to kiss Kerri Green’s character, Andy, either). Mikey was also big on making speeches to his friends (as well as freaky one-eyed skeletons). One of these bits of motivational oration comes after the group realizes they’re at the bottom of the town's wishing well. With no clear path forward, most of the Goonies are ready to ride the well bucket back up to the surface. That’s when Mikey makes with the word-magic.
“Don't you realize? The next time you see sky, it'll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it'll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what's right for them. Because it's their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second we ride up Troy's bucket.”
On first listen (and the second, third, fourth, or however many hundreds of times I watched this movie as a kid), I didn’t have an issue with this speech. I loved that Mikey was standing up to his friends, taking charge, and delivering a speech that could have come out of the James T. Kirk Manual of Inspiring Speeches.
The beginning is great. He’s emphasizing that this is their last chance to be together and that if they fail to find One-Eyed Willie’s rich stuff, they will all be scattered across the country. The end also works as well. He’s laying down the challenge. The Goonies are the only ones who can save their homes. This is their time to take action, solve One-Eyed Willie’s riddles, and get to the treasure.
But then there’s the middle.
Hang on. Before we get to that, can we talk about the whole situation here for a second? I know this is supposed to be about nonsensical dialogue, but what about the mess that prompted the search for treasure in the first place. Some developers are evicting everyone who lives in the Goon Docks from their homes, so they can level the place and turn it into a golf course. Does anyone have a bead on how this happened? Is everyone who lives there behind on their mortgage? Were they just renting the houses, and they sit on land owned by the golf course developer? Is it an eminent domain situation? Obviously money is needed to save the day, so eminent domain would seem to be out. And if the developer owns the land, the money wouldn’t matter because nothing can force him to sell the land to the families instead of building his golf course. There’s something we’re missing here.
But granting that, why does being forced to leave the Goon Docks mean that the families have to leave town altogether? The adults presumably have jobs. Their places of employment aren’t all being shut down, too, are they? Mouth’s dad is a plumber. He’s still going to have plenty of work. Sure, maybe the Goonies will all end up living in different neighborhoods, but why do they have to go to completely different towns?
Sorry. That was a bit of a tangent there. Let’s get back to the issue at hand: Mikey’s speech. More specifically, the middle bit:
“Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what's right for them. Because it's their time. Their time! Up there!”
it’s time for the Goonies to make it through the caves and find the treasure. It’s the Goonies time to take action. IT’S THEIR TIME! I get all that. But how is it their parents’ time exactly? Is there some parallel story we don’t know about where the parents are banding together in some adventure of their own to save the Goon Docks? (That would be kind of awesome, actually.) Based on what we see in the movie, no.
Mikey, my long-time friend, your idea of “their time” as it relates to your parents makes no sense. Your parents aren’t having an adventure or saving the day. Instead, they are probably home lamenting the loss of their houses, packing up all of their belongings, and, oh yes, FREAKING OUT THAT THEIR KIDS HAVE GONE MISSING!
Listen up, Mr. Rich Stuff, while you and your friends have been running around in those caves playing Indiana Jones, your mother and father have been worried sick! You know what’s happening tomorrow? They’re losing their homes! Your homes! You picked a hell of a time to run off, young man! I…
Ahem. I’ve hit the point where I related to the parents more than the kids, haven’t I? Oh boy.
I have no idea what the screenwriter was trying to get at with the “their time” stuff. Of course, when I saw this movie as a kid, I didn’t care what the adults were up to, so that senseless babble in the middle of Mikey’s speech didn’t register with me at all.
But what about the rest of you? Is there a line or a speech from a movie that has you wondering what the writers were thinking?
- Alan Decker (@CmdrAJD on Twitter)