Directed by David Mickey Evans
Written by David Mickey Evans and Robert Gunter
Cast: Tom Guiry, Karen Allen, Denis Leary, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York, Brandon Quintin, Grant Gelt, Victor DiMattia and Shane Obedzinski
Length: 1 hour and 41 minutes
Genre: Comedy, drama, family
MPAA Rating: PG
Description from IMDB:
“In the summer of 1962, a new kid in town is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his rowdy team, resulting in many adventures.”
While walking into his job as a baseball commentator, a man recalls the first time he met his childhood friend and a summer that changed his life forever. As a fifth grader in 1962, Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) moves with his mother (Karen Allen) and step-father (Denis Leary) to Los Angeles at the beginning of summer. Scott has a hard time making friends, and ends up going to a make-shift baseball diamond where he meets Benny (Mike Vitar). Though initially bad at baseball, he soon befriends Ham (Patrick Renna), Squints (Chauncey Leopardi), Yeah-Yeah (Marty York), Kenny (Brandon Quintin Adams), Bert (Grant Gelt), Timmy (Victor DiMattia), and his younger brother Repeat (Shane Obedzinski). As the kids spend their summer together, they take on a rival baseball team and get into various hijinks. One day, Benny hits the guts out of a ball and Scott decides to get his step-dad’s baseball as a replacement. After he hits it into a backyard containing the terrifying “Beast”, a junkyard dog of epic proportions, it is revealed that he must get it back since the ball was signed by none other than Babe Ruth.
The Sandlot (1993) is a rather stereotypical coming of age story. Scott moves to an unknown place and is taken under the wing of a more knowledgeable mentor before facing the difficulties of a dangerous task. He initially has a hard time making friends because of how bad he is at baseball, and the cruelty of children is shown very well in their mocking jests. However, all it takes is for Benny to believe in Scott (and give him a couple of pointers) before the other boys are swayed after a show of surprising skill. Once this threshold is crossed, Scott dons the nickname “Smalls” and is accepted into the fold. Some of the best interactions come from the boys giving one another a hard time, with plenty of quotable lines (most coming from Ham); I doubt there are many people who have seen the film that won’t understand someone shouting “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
As believable as the kids interactions and the bonding that takes place between them is, there are still some issues with the film from a storytelling standpoint. The film has voice-over narration provided by an adult version of Smalls who is clearly telling the story to someone, only it is never explained who. It sounds like he might be recounting his first meeting with Benny for some sort of sport periodical or biography, but the film ends with Benny, now a professional baseball player, sliding into home (without even getting into a pickle). Along with this, the narrative does slow the pace a bit to show Smalls becoming friends with the rest of the gang. The myth of the Beast is planted shortly after he is accepted as their friend, but it isn’t picked up again until much closer to the third act. In addition to this, some of the acting by the kids is pretty dull, or overdone; while this may be nitpicking, Smalls is the lead character, so when his acting seems overblown or awkward, it is very noticeable.
I classify The Sandlot (1993) as a nostalgia movie; that is, a movie you watch again because you have fond memories of seeing it when you were growing up. I played baseball until 7th grade, and this movie often accompanied many of my summers. I genuinely forgot a lot of the beginning setup and parts aside from the major events in the movie, and I think that is an appropriate way to remember the movie; think of the funny lines, the boys bonding, and the chase with the Beast rather than awkward acting, slow plot, and a narrative crutch. The Sandlot (1993) carries themes of friendship, looking back fondly on one’s childhood, and being able to take the lessons learned there with us into adulthood; there is nothing wrong with looking back, but be prepared to see things a little different than you remembered them.
Verdict: 3 legends that never die out of 5
Recommended for: Children accompanied by a parent or guardian, fans of baseball montages, those who enjoy hearing about the “biggest pickle” Scott ever got his friends into, and those who like watching kids scream and run away from a dog.
Not recommended for: Those emotionally scarred by Cujo (1983), fans of The Sandlot 2 (2005), those who never saw the movie as kids, or those offended by a kid using “you play ball like a girl” as an insult (I get where you’re coming from, but it’s supposed to be a stupid, childish insult).