The Sandlot (1993)
The Sandlot (1993)

Genre: Adventure and Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: April 7th, 1993 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: David Mickey Evans Actors: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York, Brandon Adams, Grant Gelt, Shane Obedzinski, Victor DiMattia, Denis Leary, Karen Allen, James Earl Jones, Marley Shelton

 


 

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n 1962, two weeks before school lets out, fifth-grader Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) moves to a new town in California – and immediately worries about whether or not he’ll be able to make some friends. His mom (Karen Allen) similarly wants her only child to successfully socialize, rather than remain a tinkering egghead. Scotty hopes his stepfather Bill (Denis Leary), a longtime fan of baseball, will teach him to play, but neighbor Benjamin “Benny” Franklin Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) ends up doing the job instead. At the nearby sandlot, a group of eight kids play a continual game of baseball, with no sides and no scores – the perfect arrangement for Scotty, who hopes to be the ninth position. Unfortunately, he only has a plastic toy mitt, he’s never thrown a ball before, and he doesn’t even know about the Great Bambino. “You’re killing me, Smalls!”

Acknowledging Scotty’s interest, Benny stops by the house to collect the boy – and takes him under his wing. The other players, including “Ham” Porter (Patrick Renna), “Squints” Palledorous (Chauncey Leopardi), “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan (Marty York), and the Timmons brothers, are quick to judge the newcomer, tossing around insults and general reluctance toward including a nonathletic geek. But Benny makes sure the kid gets a chance in what will become the greatest summer ever – despite also involving the most harrowing pickle of his life.

From idolizing Babe Ruth to telling tall tales to enjoying fireworks to roasting marshmallows by candlelight to fretting over losing baseballs to the neighbor’s monstrous mutt, “The Sandlot” boasts relatable and cordial small-town Americana concepts. Underdogs competing against richer, better organized, more experienced, slightly older rivals; the gang desperately attempting to catch the eye of shapely lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn (Marley Shelton); and celebrating at a grand carnival after a sound win against snobby opponents, are but a few of the numerous, unforgettable moments. The team even experiments with chewing tobacco, resulting in hilarious consequences. The lighthearted tone and prevalent humor are comparable to a children’s version of “A League of Their Own,” which debuted a year earlier.

With all the supremely entertaining events weaved into a film about friendship (using sports as a light deception for the universal theme), “The Sandlot” additionally manages to utilize effective editing, appropriately juvenile dialogue (“You play ball like a girl!”), and laugh-out-loud humor, while capturing adolescent adventure with a genuine sense of innocence and nostalgia. It also features a rockin’ soundtrack that just might be the most fitting score ever matched to a family film (in many ways, it parallels the perfection behind “Pulp Fiction’s” music track). As the squad tackles the notions of fear, girls, lying to adults, revising first impressions, teamwork, and trial-and-error “Mission: Impossible”-styled endeavors to resolve the issue of a stolen trophy, the keenly cast child actors never reveal any weaknesses in their performances. Everything comes together in a spectacularly satisfying way (with an epic chase, a monumental act of kindness, and a clever epilogue), marking this feel-good, coming-of-age modern classic as one of the greatest of its genre.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10