STEVEN SPIELBERG'S "Goonies," unlike last year's grumpy "Gremlins" and the grisly "Temple of Doom," is a good-natured escape featuring a cast of kids in search of hidden treasure, a sort of "Little Rascals of the Lost Ark."

Richard Donner of "Ladyhawke" co- produces and directs the action-packed, high-volume comic adventure with its Rube Goldberg machines and chase scenes that resemble Disneyland rides. Cyndi Lauper sings the title song, "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough," but the young stars squeak and squeal so much that it's sometimes hard to hear the dialogue.

Fourteen-year-old Sean Astin (son of John and Patty Duke Astin) is one of several star offspring in the excellent cast. Josh Brolin (son of James) and Martha Plimpton (Keith Carradine's daughter) are also members of a gang of square pegs who call themselves "goonies."

Like most adolescents, they live in another world, but there is absolutely nothing extra-terrestrial about these down-to-earthlings. They don't transmogrify. They're just your average, socially awkward teens and pre-teens.

Astin is an asthmatic romantic whose inspirational speeches are punctuated with deep breaths on a bronchial inhaler. Plimpton wears glasses and Brolin just failed his driver's exam.

The best-known performer is Ke Huy- Quan (of "Temple of Doom" fame) as a kiddie James Bond. But the youngest member of the team steals the show. Ten-year- old Jeff B. Cohen, cute as a jellybean, is like a miniature John Candy as Chunk, the perpetual eating machine.

The kids find a pirate's map in an attic and begin a perilous search for the treasure of a long-mouldering California buccaneer. Their nemeses, Ma Fratelli and the Fratelli Brothers, are hiding out in a restaurant built on the entrance to the pirate cave. Nonetheless the kids find their way into an underground wonderland of cantankerous plumbing, pieces of eight and a magical pirate ship.

Separated from the others, Chunk meets a retarded giant, Sloth (touchingly played by former Oakland Raider John Matuszak). The two scream their heads off in mutual fright in a scene reminiscent of the one between E.T. and Drew Barrymore. And then they share a Baby Ruth. There's nothing like candy for making friends.

The Spielberg story, scripted by Christopher Columbus, is juvenile and obviously recycled. And so are the boobytraps the kids encounter as they make their way through the pirate caves. But it is so well recycled and the message so sweet that surely no one, especially families with kids, will mind.

Steven Spielberg has found his way back home.

THE GOONIES (PG) -- At area theaters.