Directed By: David Mickey Evans
Written By: David Mickey Evans, Robert Gunter
Produced By: Dale de la Torre, William S. Gilmore
Cast: Denis Leary, Karen Allen, James Earl Jones, Tom Guiry
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 101 minutes
Review Date: October 1, 2010
Plenty of people who grew up in the ’90s have fond memories of The Sandlot. Truthfully, if they want to keep those memories, they ought to avoid re-watching it. The appreciation seems mostly fueled by nostalgia, which is ironic, seeing as the film itself is a condensed shot of gauzy reminiscence, like The Wonder Years without the very important lessons and sense of humor.
The genuine affection director David Mickey Evans has for the lazy, carefree days of his youth does help balance out an entertaining trifle of a kid’s film, and there are some genuinely warm moments in it. Of course, it helps a lot if you grew up loving baseball. For the non-sports inclined, it’s mostly a meandering paean to suburban life in the ’60s, one that’s as diverting as…well, watching nine innings.
Ironically, the film’s main character is Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry), a runty brain too buried in his Erector Set to know who Babe Ruth is. But he so earnestly wants to fit in that he takes up with a band of local kids whose singular obsession is baseball. They don’t keep score. They don’t really have teams. They just keep pitching and hitting, for the love of the game.
That kind of sums up the plot. The kids eat s’mores, swap ghost stories, take on some rivals, and try to keep away from a monstrous mastiff living in a yard beyond their field. There’s not really a whole lot of drama. At times, this movie is so bucolic it makes The Goonies look like a kid’s flick on amphetamines - and thank God for those amphetamines.
Thank Him for the mastiff, too, which shakes up the sleepy story by eating stray baseballs. There are some wonderful fantasy sequences that give you a kid’s-eye view of the dog, which stamps and drools behind a steel fence like a chained beast. There’s also a dream sequence in which Babe Ruth (Art La Fleur) advises one kid to hop the fence and get a prized ball back from the teeth of this massive, wild creature that’s rumored to have eaten a child. The Bambino was tops at baseball, but I’m not sure how he’d fair as a responsible mentor.
The cast is decent, with Patrick Renna standing out as a foul-mouthed catcher. But despite having some big names in the movie, their talent is wasted in parts that are hardly more than cameos (a bizarrely miscast Denis Leary plays Scotty’s distracted, monosyllabic stepfather, and mostly looks annoyed to even be on set).
There are plenty of movies out there that are unfairly canonized because of people’s childhood memories of them. Sadly, there are better ones out there than The Sandlot to enjoy.
Andrew Good is a film critic and writer living in San Diego.