Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sandlot

Directed by David M. Evans.
1993. Rated PG, 101 minutes.
Tom Guiry
Mike Vitar
Patrick Renna
Chauncey Leopardi
Marty York
Brandon Quintin Adams
Grant Gelt
Shane Obedzinski
Victor DiMattia
Denis Leary
Karen Allen
James Earl Jones
Marley Shelton

Scotty (Guiry) has just moved into the neighborhood. He’s a home-body and a geek, for lack of a better word. At his mom’s encouragement, he ventures out into his new stomping grounds. Shortly, he falls in with a local group of boys who spend every day of their summer vacation playing baseball at the sandlot. They are not so receptive to Scotty, at first. Not only does he not know how to play the game, he can’t even throw a ball ten feet. His lack of athleticism also hinders his bonding with Bill (Leary), his stepdad.

Soon enough, Scotty learns to play ball and becomes one of the guys. However, there are other issues to deal with. Bill still hasn’t really warmed up to him, there’s another group of boys who challenge Scotty and friends to a game and he still has to figure out who Babe Ruth is. More important than any of these things, our heroes will have to deal with The Beast, at some point. According to local legend, The Beast is a man-eating, baseball-devouring canine living in the yard just beyond the sandlot. Any homeruns the boys hit land on the dog’s turf, lost forever. They don’t even bother trying to retrieve the balls. They know that all the boys who have dared to venture into that yard have never been seen again.

What unfolds is a fun and funny coming of age story. We come to understand the friendship between the boys and its hierarchy. Within that, they have some hilarious interactions. Unknowingly, they make choices that will define the rest of their lives. We get to experience their best summer ever, along with them. It helps that it’s written in a manner we can relate to whether we’re sports fans, or not. Admittedly, those of us who are, or have been boys who spend most of their free time playing and/or talking sports with our buddies are the target audience. Still, those who don’t fit that profile won’t feel left out.

For all it’s charm and nostalgia, there are flaws. Scotty’s inability to play baseball suddenly disappears after one highlighted play. Stepdad Bill doesn’t seem to like anyone, let alone Scotty. Most problematic is that it often feels like a remake of Stand by Me. It just adds a few more boys and baseball while replacing the quest to see a dead body with a giant dog. Regardless, it is still a fun watch. However, if you’ve seen Stand by Me, you get a “been there, done that” feel.

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