Summer Classic Review: "The Sandlot"

Photo Credit: © 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Rating: PG
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: April 07, 1993
Directed by: David M. Evans
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Family

Few films embody the joys and troubles of childhood like "The Sandlot," a 1990s favorite that is often regarded as one of the best family films of that decade. The story follows Scotty, a shy kid who meets a group of friends who love to play baseball. When Scotty loses his step-father's prized ball, however, they must do whatever it takes to get it back, even if that means facing a ferocious bulldog. Offering a colorful cast of characters and some hilarious situations, "The Sandlot" is a feel-good movie everyone can enjoy.

A kid named Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) moves to a small neighborhood in Los Angeles with his mom and step-dad in the early 1960s, and he struggles to adjust to his new lifestyle. Although making friends is no easy task, Scotty decides to follow a group of kids one day to see what they do for fun, and he sees them playing a casual game of baseball on a makeshift field they call the Sandlot. Scotty is reluctant to join in the game, having little skill when it comes to baseball, but he decides to give it a go. The other kids become quickly exasperated when he can barely toss the ball, and Scotty is ready to give up. Then, the group's star player Benny (Mike Vitar) convinces him to keep playing and takes him under his wing.

Scotty soon becomes an accepted member of the team, and he begins to learn the ways of his ragtag group of goofy friends. Ham (Patrick Renna), Squints (Chauncey Leopardi), Yeah-Yeah (Marty York) and the rest of the crew are having a great game one day, but when Benny hits a home run, Scotty discovers an important rule. They must never hit the ball over the fence because a dangerous bulldog nicknamed "The Beast" lives on the other side. Eager to keep the game alive, Scotty runs home to steal his step-dad's autographed baseball. The game begins again, but the new ball is soon lost as well. When Scotty realizes that the irreplaceable memento had been signed by Babe Ruth, he knows he has to get it back.

That night, Benny dreams that he is visited by the same legendary player who signed the ball, and he wakes up the next morning determined to help Scotty rescue the ball. After devising a foolproof plan, Benny manages to snatch the ball from under the Beast's nose, and the angry dog then proceeds to chase him through town.

Featuring a kid-friendly plot, plenty of humor and a great cast of young actors, it's no surprise that "The Sandlot" continues to be a family favorite more than two decades after its initial release. The plot itself is fast-paced and fun despite the fact that the stakes are pretty low, and it's impossible not to fall in love with the team of quirky young baseball players. By the end of the film, viewers cannot help but feel a sense of nostalgia for times gone by.

The film serves as a glance back at childhood for the main character Scotty Smalls, who narrates the film in adult form as if telling a story. This helps to provide some valuable insight into the quiet boy's thoughts and dreams, and it is especially impacting when viewers see what has become of Scotty and each of the other kids after growing up. Although "The Sandlot" offers some well-placed humor, this is balanced with moments of tenderness and sentimentality, especially as the film comes to a close. The result is a sweet, enjoyable escape that has captured the hearts of audiences.

The movie wouldn't be complete, however, without its cast of remarkable young characters who embody their characters with eagerness and passion. Guiry is instantly likable as Smalls, playing the archetypal quiet observer with ease. Mike Vitar is perfectly cast as the star player Benny, and the rest of the then-child actors all bring some unique charm and personality to the lineup. Karen Allen and Denis Leary are excellent as Scotty's mom and step-dad. Even James Earl Jones makes a memorable appearance. These talented actors help to bring the story to life in a way that feels genuine and vivid to the audience.

Viewers who enjoyed watching "The Sandlot" when growing up are sure to glean just as much enjoyment from the film's cheeky humor as the new generation of young audiences. The film may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it is a worthwhile feel-good film that is easy to watch again and again.