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The Sandlot (1993)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/26/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video:
Audio:
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/7/2013

I would venture to guess that today most social groups have at least one "movie person". (I was originally going to write "Movie Guy", but that term seems sexist and outdated.) As the local "movie person", I can tell you that others assume that you've seen every movie. Well, A) that's impossible (I do have to fit some other things into my schedule), and B) while I try to see every movie in which I'm interested, I don't think I want to see every movie. Still, this comes up every now and then. For example, when I was watching The Sandlot with my family, my wife couldn't believe that I hadn't seen it. The movie came out at a time in my life when I was pursuing the ultimate art-house horror movie, so I couldn't be bothered by a children's/family film. Now that I've seen it, I'm glad that I didn't go out of my way to track it down.

The story begins in the early 1960s when Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) moves to a new neighborhood with his Mom (Karen Allen) and Step-Dad (Denis Leary). Scotty's interest lie in indoor activities like his Erector set, so he's not sure if he'll be able to fit in with the other kids, who prefer playing outside. However, the friendly and outgoing Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) invites Scotty to the local "sandlot" to play baseball. Scotty accepts, although he knows nothing about baseball -- He doesn't even know who Babe Ruth is. At the sandlot, Scotty meets the rest of the gang -- Squints (Chauncey Leopardi), Ham (Patrick Renna), Yeah-Yeah (Marty York), Kenny (Brandon Quintin Adams), Bertram (Grant Gelt), Tommy (Shane Obedzinski), and Timmy (Victor DiMattia). The guys love to play baseball, but dread when the ball goes over the outfield fence, for an unusually large and savage dog lives there. As Scotty gets to know they guys, they have adventures at a carnival and at the local pool.

The Sandlot was written and directed by David Mickey Evans, a filmmaker who had a bright future in the early 90s. His scripts for The Sandlot and Radio Flyer had been snatched up by studios. He actually began directing 1992's Radio Flyer, but was replaced by Richard Donner. That film takes a serious and rather depressing look at child abuse through the imaginative eyes of children. Evans then jumped into the decidedly less serious The Sandlot which, like Radio Flyer, takes a retrospective look at childhood, but it's much more lighthearted. But, it also has its share of problems.

The Sandlot isn't necessarily a bad movie, it's simply an inconsistent one. Evans and Co-writer Robert Gunter have decided that they want to cram every conceivable adolescent male childhood memory into one movie. This creates a film which is very episodic and never finds any narrative flow. The advertisements make the film look as if it focuses on baseball, but that's actually a small part of the story as we also get step-parents, moving to a new town, first crushes, experiments with tobacco products, rival gangs (or baseball teams), and male bonding. All of that occurs in the first two acts of the film. With the third act, The Sandlot suddenly becomes a different movie, as it's only concerned with the boys rescuing a treasured object which went over the fence. This part of the film drifts away from the reality presented in the beginning, as the boys create elaborate devices to get next door.

This commitment to not committing to anything ultimately makes The Sandlot difficult to like. Sure, there are some nice moments here, and I really liked the fact that the boys accepted the new kid in town, even if it was unrealistic. However, the movie simply jumps around too much and it's never given an ample opportunity to explore its many characters, so everyone simply becomes a catch-phrase. The other major problem with The Sandlot is that it feels too similar to 1986's Stand by Me. Yes, the two films are different in tone and there are no dead bodies in The Sandlot, but things like the carnival scene, the exaggerated dog stories, the dialogue, and the use of pop music from the period are too parallel to be ignored. It's as if someone saw Stand by Me and said, "Let's make a more kiddie-friendly version of that." Having seen Stand by Me many times, I prefer that film and find The Sandlot to be a weak imitation. Having said that, my two female children liked the movie and it held their interest, so again, it's not bad, it simply doesn't deserve the "classic" status some have lent it.

The Sandlot left me wondering if they ever told Darth Vader about his fence on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 21 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing some mild grain, but no overt defects from the source material. The colors look good, although they are a tad washed-out at times. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is adequate, with the picture going soft on occasion, and the depth is pretty good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects add a nice touch especially during the baseball games as the action moves from the center channel to the right or left. The surround sound effects are modest, but they do add to the pool scene, the carnival scene, and the third act. The dog's growling gets a boost from the subwoofer.

The Sandlot Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Featurette" (6 minutes) is an electronic press kit from 1993 which contains many clips from the film and a few comments from the cast and some on-set footage. One would think that even a brief retrospective piece could have been included. The other extras are the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, as well as seven TV SPOTS.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.