‘Heroes get remembered but legends never die…’
Now. This baseball themed coming-of-age tale would be a classic if it wasn’t such an obvious rip off to Stand By Me. But it’s impossible to ignore. There is a warm and endearing narrator. The film takes place entirely over one summer in America’s recent past. The boys have to climb a fence to escape a murderous dog. The coda involves characters fading away as the narrator ruefully explains their fate. It’s not a homage. It’s more brazen than that. Writer/director David Mickey Evans has basically remade Stand By Me but with more baseball and less dead bodies…
Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is a scrawny kid who struggles to fit in. When local hero Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) takes Scotty under his wing, life begins to look a whole lot rosier. Even if Scotty still doesn’t have a clue who Babe Ruth is.
For all its screamingly obvious comparisons with Stand By Me, The Sandlot still has a lot of heart and a lot of soul. This was clearly a labour of love for Evans who would go on to direct a whole bunch of terrible movies after this one. The young cast are all pretty bad actors but they seem to get along fine and their obvious chemistry is pretty infectious. The first part of the movie is actually, genuinely heartwarming and lovely (although a young boy tricking a girl into giving him mouth to mouth probably wouldn’t wash in this day and age), but as soon as the film becomes about retrieving a lost baseball everything goes downhill really fast.
I’m probably being a little harsh on The Sandlot. I can imagine that if I had watched this growing up, I would have loved it, but to see it for the first time now with old and weary eyes didn’t do much for me. A nice distraction but nothing more.