When I was a child,
I spake as a child,
And acted as foolish as children will do.
Yet now that I’m older
And ought to be wiser,
I find there’s more worry than wisdom in view.
That’s why I, like many, now crave what we lack,
Some innocent childhood foolishness back.
MPAA rating: PG
It looks like I won’t be able to quite finish my Blindspot series before the end of the year, but I’ll at least get as close as possible with eleven. (That just leaves Pan’s Labyrinth, which should be first thing next year.) Growing up, I always skipped The Sandlot when I saw it in the kid’s section of Blockbuster – is it weird that this makes me feel old when it wasn’t that long ago? – mainly because I’ve never been a fan of baseball. Then, fairly recently but all of a sudden, I heard people at work saying it’s “the best movie ever,” and I started hearing people say “You’re killin’ me, Smalls,” as if it were some classic line I’d never heard before. That’s when I decided I had to see what was so great about this little ‘90s family film that has somehow amassed a cult following.
The Sandlot is a healthy dose of juvenile nostalgia, one which most viewers should be able to relate to their childhood, even if it’s set back in the summer of 1962. Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is the new kid in town, awkward and wimpy as he tries to join a local group of kids on their baseball field. While most of them have no patience for a kid who can’t even throw a ball, Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) reaches out to him and allows him to enjoy the summer as part of the team, which includes various misadventures and a giant terrifying beast on the far side of the fence.
Like The Goonies or Clue, it’s the kind of film that I wish I’d seen when I was younger, because it might well have been a cherished classic by now for me as well. The vignettes of childhood camaraderie and conflict and what matters to an acceptance-seeking tween reminded me at times of Disney’s Recess series and A Christmas Story, thanks also to the nostalgic narration of a grown-up Scotty. There were also echoes of Stand By Me, but thankfully the amusingly juvenile insults lobbed among the kids are kept far more PG-rated. There are no instantly recognizable child stars here (though it was nice to see James Earl Jones), but that only helped each of the young cast feel like real kids, trading taunts, having fun, and exaggerating danger.
There are scenes that go on a bit too long, but overall The Sandlot was a fun film that didn’t require a love of baseball to enjoy. The friendship between Scotty and Benny is also a laudable example for other kids to follow; inviting an outsider into the group and having the patience to help them fit in are not common behaviors for most kids, so I hope this movie helped make some playgrounds friendlier out there. I’m not sure why “You’re killing me, Smalls” has become such a repeated line, since it was only used twice and not that prominently, but at least I’ll get the reference from now on. It’s certainly a film I’d watch with my own kids some day.
Best line: (Babe Ruth, in a dream) “Remember, kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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