Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review! Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere. This week Dave and Patrick celebrate baseball playoff season by reviewing the classic 90s flick The Sandlot.
The Flick: The Sandlot
What’s it About: Scotty Smalls is a smart middle schooler who just moved into a new neighborhood. When his mother encourages him to leave his room and try to make some friends, Scotty discovers a group of kids who spend their summer days playing baseball in an abandoned sandlot. Friendships are born and they work together when Scotty gets them all in the biggest pickle any of them had ever seen.
Metacritic Score: 55
The Nerds’ Take on The Sandlot (1993):
Patrick: In the 90’s filmmakers had this strange obsession with making movies involving kids and sports. And perhaps the king of all kids in sports films is The Sandlot, the film in this week’s review. As Major League baseball enters its only fitting we review a baseball movie. But, The Sandlot is so much more than a baseball flick. It’s snapshot into the simple joy of a childhood summer. The film follows young Scotty Smalls, a bookish middle schooler who is new in town and seems more interested in his erector set than anything else. When his mother encourages him to leave the house and make some friends, Scotty discovers a goup of eight boys his age who spend their summer days playing baseball in an abandoned sandlot. Their leader is a talented young boy named Benny Rodriguez, who takes Scotty under his wing and welcomes him into the group. From there we get a montage of summer hijinks including baseball, swimming pools and sleepovers all in the back drop of 1960s suburbia. The film culminates in the boys attempting to retrieve a baseball owned by Sotty’s stepfather from a neighbor’s yard. Why all the effort? Well, the ball was autographed by Babe Ruth.
The Sandlot is interesting because it really tells two stories in one. The first half of the film is really about Scotty’s efforts to fit in with his newfound friends and we see the relationships between the boys grow. They go through all sorts of mini adventures together and really form a bond. By the time Scotty gets them all into the biggest pickle any of them had ever seen (the movies second plot), the audience believes that any one of the eight will do anything to help the ninth. The gang even forgives Scotty for lying to them all about not knowing who Babe Ruth was.
I initially described this movie as a montage of moments and scenes and those scenes are where the movie finds its charm. Most of the scenes are good, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that scene at the swimming pool doesn’t age well. I’m sorry tricking a woman into believing you are drowning to then forcibly kiss her isn’t cool. It’s creepy. The other scenes from the kids’ summer really do hold up pretty well, and the Fourth of July scene is particularly great. It’s just beautifully shot, and the faces of the kids as they look away from the game to see the fireworks just gets me every time. Yes, I know it’s horribly schmaltzy and manipulative, I don’t care. When they start playing Ray Charles in the background I still get chills. I love that scene so much, I watch The Sandlot every Fourth of July.
There are some pretty famous adults cast as the authority figures in The Sandlot such as Karen Allen, Dennis Leary, and James Earl Jones. But the heart and soul of this movie is in the children. Under the direction of David Mickey Evans, these children capture the purity of a summer vacation, whiling the days away with your friends. Children and adults alike can watch this film and enjoy it because it speaks to multiple generations. Children enjoy the moments for what they are, and adults enjoy the moments for what they were. To me, you really can’t go wrong with this movie and I know I will keep watching it for years to come.
Patrick’s Rating: 4.75/5
Dave Despite the oddity that has been the 2020 MLB Season, the World Series is roughly a week away. It only makes sense that for this week’s Nerd Review, we revisited one of the best baseball movies ever, 1993’s The Sandlot. Geared towards young males and families, The Sandlot has remained one of the most beloved movies of its time for 27 years now for very good reasons.
In case you are one of the few who have not seen The Sandlot it is, at its core, a movie about friendship and the power of friendship. Scott Smalls has just moved to the San Fernando Valley, but has done so right at the end of the school year. It looks like he will go into the summer not having time to have made any friends. But he is befriended by Benny Rodriguez, a baseball prodigy of sorts. Benny teaches Scott how to play baseball and helps him get accepted by the other seven kids who make up the team that plays a never-ending game of baseball at a sandlot. The sandlot is adjacent to a junkyard that is inhabited by The Beast who, in actuality, is an English Mastiff. As is often the case with kids, they have embellished rumors they have heard about The Beast and he is now regarded as a legendary, fearsome killer of kids and hoarder of baseballs that have been hit into the junkyard. Once Scott is accepted by the group, he gets quite good at the American Pastime. So good, in fact, that he belts a baseball into the junkyard. The problem is that the baseball in question was one that Scott swiped from his step-father’s trophy room, signed by none other than Babe Ruth himself. The final third of the movie is all about the kids trying to retrieve the priceless ball from The Beast, which leads to some of the funniest moments of the movie.
There are too many timeless moments, scenes, and dialogue in this movie to summarize here. Possibly the best line of the movie….”You’re killing me Smalls”….can be found on T-Shirts in just about any Target or Wal-Mart you want. The exchange of insults between the Sandlot kids and a group of uppity kids with actual baseball uniforms is tremendously funny. The scene where Squints feigns drowning so that he can get mouth to mouth resuscitation from lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn is one of the most iconic scenes in any baseball movie ever. Plus, the movie taught many of us what Smores were, the dangers of chewing tobacco while riding rides at a carnival, the legend of PF Flyers, and reminded us all of just how awesome a holiday the 4th of July was when we were kids and did not have the weight of our own little worlds on our shoulders. In fact, that is one of the facets of The Sandlot that makes it so exceptional. You can watch it with your kids and it will mean one thing to them, but will likely remind you of a simpler, and more innocent, time when time was all we had and that was a good thing.
As far as the cast is concerned, the kids were all excellent but the star power was on the adult side of things with Karen Allen and Dennis Leary playing Scott’s parents and the incomparable James Earl Jones playing Mr. Mertle, who turns out to be a former baseball player who played with the Great Bambino and who saves Scott’s bacon in the end. Similar to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World from last week, The Sandlot has become somewhat of a cult classic, really hitting its stride after it was released on home video and more people got to see it. It is a charming, coming-of-age movie that showcases the purity of childhood and baseball and tells a really fun and entertaining story along the way. There have been some largely forgettable sequels that seemed to try way too hard to capture the magic of the original. That issue aside, if you are looking for an excellent baseball movie with a lighter theme, The Sandlot will leave you quite satisfied.
Dave’s Rating: 4.5/5