Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: April 7, 1993
DIRECTOR: David Mickey Evans
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Anthony B. Richmond
WRITERS: David Mickey Evans, Robert Gunter
MUSIC: David Newman
In the 1990s, there were several sports movies starring a young cast of misfit kids, inspired by earlier films such as “Bad News Bears”. If you were to ask someone from my generation which of these films was the best, you might have a few that would say “Rookie of the Year”. More than a handful might mention “The Mighty Ducks”. Hell, a few people might even say “Angels in the Outfield”.
Even so, most people of my generation would also agree that the absolute quintessential kids sports comedy is none other than “The Sandlot”. Set in 1962, the movie follows Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry), a loner kid who has just moved with his mom (Karen Allen) and his stepdad Bill (Denis Leary). Eventually, Smalls meets a group of kids that meet up at a nearby sandlot in order to play baseball.
The movie shows how Smalls becomes one of the gang and it takes a glorified look at a simpler time. Eventually, though, Smalls loses a baseball signed by none other than Babe Ruth when he hits it over the fence. The only problem is that on the other side of that fence is a Beast that they must outwit in order to retrieve the ball.
The movie, in many ways, actually reminds me of “A Christmas Story” with both movies following a central protagonist in the ensemble and that protagonist also narrates the film throughout. We also often view the past through rose-colored glasses, ignoring the challenges of the time and instead focusing on what made that time great in the first place. This movie is no different as this is a very family-friendly, Norman Rockwellian portrait.
That’s okay, though, because that’s what also makes the film work. We see the film through the eyes of the kids and they’re having a blast and so are we as a result. Even when they refer to the awful Beast, though, we are seeing the animal through their eyes, so the Beast seems a whole lot different than we’re led to believe. In this regard, the movie is also about getting over your fears in order to achieve greatness.
The cast of kids may be one of the best ever assembled for a film and they rise to the levels of other child ensembles such as those found in films like “The Goonies”. The standout for me is Chauncey Leopardi as Michael “Squints” Palledorous. He’s the funny character who initially explains the origins of the Beast and he’s just an all around funny and goofy kid that steals most of the scenes he’s in.
Some may claim that the movie is insanely sentimental and they wouldn’t be lying. If you don’t like overly sentimental films, then this one is simply not for you. However, for me, if that sentimentality is done right, it can be a beautiful thing and after 25 years, “The Sandlot” has thankfully stood the test of time and is a genuine family classic.