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Movie Review: The Sandlot

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Director David M. Evans 1993 film The Sandlot tells the story of new kid on the block Scotty Smalls trying to fit in to a new community with the help of the neighborhood baseball team. To make matters worse for Smalls, he knows absolutely nothing about baseball.

During this early 1960s summer, the group finds themselves “in the biggest pickle” they have ever been, when Smalls loses his stepdad’s Babe Ruth signed baseball. There is such an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in The Sandlot it has become a children’s cinema staple and a part of the pop culture lexicon.

One thing that makes this film so special is the characters, all of whom are a reminder of neighborhood kids that you played ball with. There is the stud player, portrayed by Bennie Rodriguez that doesn’t initially dismiss Smalls like the other guys and teaches him how to play baseball. The dialogue in the film is instantly quotable, giving us such gems as “You play ball like a girl”, and of course, “You’re killing me, Smalls.”

After Smalls loses his stepdad’s (played by a likeable Denis Leary) ball, the neighborhood team has to figure out a way to get the ball from the backyard of The Beast, a mythical-like watchdog for old man Mr. Mertle, the “meanest old man to ever live.” This urban legend sets the background for the boys to go to extreme lengths to get the ball, rather than just knocking on the door and asking for the ball back.

From their tree house they attempt, much to the humor of the audience, some interesting ways to get the ball back; including a Connects set, vacuums, and rappelling little Tommy Timmons. They are ideas and adventures dreamed up by boys; they will never work but are entertaining nonetheless.

The light-hearted humor continues on a hot summer day when a trip to the local pool is much more relaxing than baseball. That day at the pool, small and nerdy Squints Palledorous takes a bold step toward manhood when he kisses the lifeguard. Sure, he has to fake his own drowning to get CPR, but he uses his opportunity to lay a long kiss on lifeguard dream girl Wendy Peffercorn.

As the neighborhood team is rushed out of the pool, the group learns that Squints has been “planning that for years.” The nerdy kid of the group had become the hero and did something that would not soon be forgotten in neighborhood lore.
Finally, when it comes down to getting the baseball, Bennie Rodriguez, has the answer in a dream.

As he discusses the situation with the ghost of Babe Ruth it becomes clear that Bennie has no other option to jump over the fence, face the Beast, and get the ball. In the words of Babe Ruth, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” This is Bennie’s moment to prove himself, not only for personal reasons but to the rest of the guys as their leader. So he buys some PF Flyers and when the Beast breaks down the fence, Bennie is in for the chase of his life all across town.

The Sandlot is a children’s classic and strikes a chord of nostalgia with its early 1960s time period, likeable and relatable characters, hilarity of events, and the great dialogue. Its simply a movie about growing up, fitting in, and having your friends’ back even in the “biggest pickles” that life throws.

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