As it's grown older, The Sandlot has quietly become a touchstone film of sorts for a lot of people, and I think I've grown to understand the rationale for it. Consider that the film is about youth on the verge of teenaged years where comradery among your friends gets diluted for love interests, it's about trying to fit into a new place and wondering where your place in home is after some upheaval. It's about overcoming fear and doing something bold. And it's also about one gigantic goddamn dog.
Written and directed by David Micky Evans (Radio Flyer), we see Smalls (Tom Guiry) in early 1960s California, part of a family who just moved, with a stepdad (Denis Leary, Draft Day) and mother (Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark) who want him to try and make friends. Stepdad is a little more distant and has never really bonded with Smalls that much. Smalls runs into eight other kids playing on a worn out baseball diamond; most of the kids don't amount to much from a talent perspective, but one kid named Benny (Mike Vitar) is head and shoulders above them all. He takes a liking to Smalls and helps him learn the game.
That may seem like an incomplete description of the movie, but for those who haven't seen it it certainly sets you in the right direction. The film moves in twists and turns that include moments fully comfortable with the era, kind of like A Christmas Story but in the summer of '62. The characters work well together and are engaging, but I think more than most are comfortable despite some of their flaws. One kid has essentially coke-bottle glasses, another has a bird's nest of red hair and is portly. But they're all friends with one another because they've looked past this stuff and accepted each other for who they are and what ball-playing prowess or in Smalls' case, lack thereof, they may have.
Strangely enough when it comes to The Sandlot is that it's a movie that would appear to be specifically geared towards being appreciated as you grow older. Perhaps people in their twenties may like it (I didn't), but getting into your thirties or forties you may have a deeper appreciation for it (I do), doing the bold and kind of dumb things in front of girls, doing dumb stuff in front of your friends because you can, that kind of thing. Performances by the young ensemble are heartfelt and genuine, and the cameo-ish appearances by adults are solid, as is the one by James Earl Jones, who covers his ethereal characters in baseball films nicely thank you very much.
Strangely enough and I don't want to be sacrosanct about it, while The Sandlot captures a lot of these things, it doesn't appear to do one (or several) that well to truly resonate. It tends to stroll through the themes I mentioned and spends time on them, but the core story has a sense of wanting to be like Stand By Me, but doesn't put in the time to make it work. Which is to say The Sandlot hits a lot of stuff that kids go through, but lacks in the ways that a film like Stand does to make them truly relatable. You remember the quartet in that film, you remember maybe what, 2-3 from The Sandlot? Do you remember much of Smalls? It's not much of a knock, it just makes The Sandlot a good movie without being a great one, despite how well it ages.
Adding onto the nostalgia, baseball's inherent timeless nature gives the film a chance that added resonance for the viewer, which is to its benefit. Lots of people talk about what makes a film work or not, but The Sandlot is certainly cinematic comfort food, in that you enjoy it, though you feel just a tiny bit bloated afterwards.The Blu-ray:
Fox gives you an AVC encode to go with the 2.35:1 high-definition release of The Sandlot. I don't know if this is the same transfer that came with the 20th Anniversary Edition, though I imagine it would be similar to the non-cardboard sleeve 2th anniversary edition that Fox released six weeks prior to this one going out. So going in a vacuum, the transfer looks okay. Image detail in the leaves and grass on the field is better than expected, and colors appear natural (such as the red in Wendy's swimsuit). If Fox is going to keep re-releasing this then maybe a 4K is in the future for the 26th anniversary, I dunno.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and I'll borrow my prologue from the transfer here as well. Dialogue sounds consistent through the film and the songs possess a surprising amount of dynamic range. Channel panning and directional effects are present during the games and subwoofer activity is as well during the cannonball in the pool. Solid soundtrack.Extras:
An EPK for the film (5:51), some TV spots (7, 3:44) and a trailer (2:31), along with some baseball cards. If you wondering if this is the same general set of extras that was in the 20th Anniversary Edition, well, they pretty much are? The cards are updated but past that, *makes loud raspberry fart noise*.Final Thoughts:
In a way The Sandlot is like the Phish of movies for me; I get the following, or at last the general vibe on why people like it, but the actual material isn't what people say that it is. Technically the disc remains solid, but Fox continues to release this double, triple and home run dips of this thing without so much as a retrospective piece on the film and its popularity. If you've got a copy of it already on Blu-ray, there's no real reason to get it again and if you don't have it and are a fan…there's not a lot here that's going to make you go back to it over and over. Wait until Fox comes to their senses and does something good with this film that scores of folks enjoy.