The Sandlot (1993) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for crude humor and some language
Running time: 101 min.
Cast: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Denis Leary, Karen Allen, Patrick Rema, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York, Brandon Adams, James Earl Jones, Grant Gelt, Shane Obedzinski, Victor DiMattia, Marley Shelton
Director: David M. Evans
Screenplay: David M. Evans, Robert Gunter
Review published November 30, 2004
The Sandlot is a favorite movie for some, but I won't count myself among them. Those who enjoy the film probably do so for all of the reasons I don't -- it's childish, predictable, unrealistic, poorly acted, silly, and saccharine nostalgia. In other words, I just don't get its appeal. I love baseball and movies about it, but this one was so cloying, I found it too much to endure. You've heard of guilty pleasures? Well, this is one film I feel guilty for not liking, but only because I wonder why it rubbed me the wrong way. Still, I have to call them as I see them, and what I saw was a bad movie that I'm probably too old and ornery to appreciate.
The story takes place in 1962 suburbia, where a young boy named Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry, U-571) has just moved into the neighborhood and has had trouble making friends. The boys in the neighborhood all love to get together to play baseball in the local sandlot, but Scotty can't catch or throw, and feels downright inadequate. He asks his step-dad (Denis Leary, Suicide Kings) for show him the fundamentals, but he always seems too busy, so without good skills, he finds it hard to fit in. Through the course of the summer, Scotty must deal with trying to make new friends, learning how to play the game, and dealing with the ferocious dog behind the outfield fence that has managed to obtain a nearly irreplaceable possession -- his dad's prized ball signed by Babe Ruth himself.
The Sandlot obviously has its audience, mostly kids and those who have an overly active imagination about their own childhood. It reminded me a little like some of the zany kids comedies of the olden days, like "Our Gang", only not nearly as funny or inspired. It also features a voice-over, a la "The Wonder Years", which was done by writer-director David Mickey Evans (Beethoven's 3rd and 4th), but the words lack the depth, not really adding to the feel of the story.
All this amounts to is a bunch of geeky and overly idealized kids delivering corny dialogue and stuck into forced situations for cheap laughs. It's goofy, phony, and downright irritating, and I'm actually at a loss as to how such an overdone farce like this has managed to find such a hardcore audience who love it. It's a far cry from Stand by Me, or even A Christmas Story, made especially for people who like their syrupy nostalgia painted in the broadest strokes possible.
-- Followed in 2005 by a sequel (of sorts), The Sandlot 2.
©2004 Vince Leo