The Sandlot

REVIEW: THE SANDLOT
I’m trying something different here.  Instead of doing a review of a current film, I’m going to take on a personal favorite of mine.
In this case, I’m reviewing 1993’s The Sandlot.   I’ve always loved baseball, and this film has always held a special place in my heart.  I recently caught it on TV so I decided to rip it apart with my cold, dead film snob mentality.  Let’s see if this one holds up.
The Sandlot takes place in the summer 1962 as new kid Scott Smalls (Tom Guiry) tries to adjust to both a new step dad Bill (Denis Leary) and a new neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley.  Awkward, nerdy and not athletic in the slightest, Scott finds it difficult to connect with the baseball loving Bill.  One day, he stumbles onto a group of kids who play baseball in a small sandlot.  Led by Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar), a baseball prodigy, he joins the kids as they play baseball, try to kiss hot lifeguards and try to save a Babe Ruth-signed baseball from a Beast of a dog.  You know, you’re typical coming of age story.
With the exception of a few comedies, baseball films have a tendency to be deadly serious about the legends and history of the sport.  There has always been a sort of nostalgic poetry to baseball in the movies and while I like it in general, it does get a bit stuffy.  Thankfully, The Sandlot doesn’t do this.
Don’t get me wrong…the film holds baseball up in its rightful place as a storied American sport.  But it also remembers that baseball is supposed to be fun.  And that’s the best thing I can say about The Sandlot.  While the fun can get a bit over the top and broad, there is still a solid film there.
As is expected in a movie with kids as the main characters, the acting can range from pretty good to somewhat bad.  Tom Guiry is really good as the Scott Smalls.  Some of his lines sound a little unconvincing, but he captures being that awkward kid doing his best to get out of his comfort zone and fit in.  I always sympathized with Smalls…he was basically me at that age.
Besides, I would be a nervous wreck if Denis Leary married into my family.  He was that guy who smoked cigarettes and yelled on MTV.
I feel ya, Smalls.
I love the way Benny Rodriguez is portrayed.  He is a prodigy, but he does his best to help Scott learn about baseball.  Benny is supposed to be that guy we all used to look up to and Vitar plays him as focused but welcoming.  James Earl Jones has a small part, but he looks like he is having fun the whole time.
The other kids on the team are hit and miss.  Squints (Chauncey Leopardi) has one of the more memorable moments when the kids go to the local swimming pool involving Lifeguard Wendy (Marley Shelton).  And Hamilton “Ham” Porter (Patrick Renna) as the group’s wise-ass catcher.  He has some of the best lines.
The rest (Kenny, Timmy, Tommy, Beavis, Butthead, Moe, Larry, Curly, and for some reason Stannis Baratheon.) tend to blend into each other, only being known for their weird nicknames.  There is a kid called “Yeah Yeah” because he constantly says “Yeah Yeah” all the time.  It’s understandable since most baseball films have to short the screen time for certain roles.   But it also doesn’t help when some of kids aren’t the best actors.
Another problem is the somewhat broad humor in The Sandlot.  For most of the film, the tone is somewhat grounded (With the exception of the entertaining Beast origin told by Squints) but all that goes out the window for the climactic chase at the end.  The Beast chases Benny throughout the neighborhood and cliches fall from every corner.  There’s even a cake falling on two bumbling bakers!
But oddly enough, the film still holds up despite its weird flaws.  Baseball is full of seemingly impossible legends.  Maybe I’m giving Director/Writer David Evans too much credit, but The Sandlot comes off as that legend you always hear about but never quite believed.  Fitting since the film has a pretty big cult following today.
The Sandlot is not a perfect film in any way.  There are countless other “flaws” I could point out but in the end they can’t bring down a fun little film.  Baseball fans, at least many of the ones I know, absolutely love it.  But like Scott Smalls, you don’t have to know anything about baseball to have fun with this film.
Score 7 out of 10