Written by David Mickey Evans and Robert Gunter
Directed by David Mickey Evans
Not every good movie about baseball has to be told at the Major League level. Baseball has long been a game played by kids with a stick and a ball. The Sandlot celebrates the simplicity of the game as a social avenue for young boys.
The story is told as a flashback by Scotty Smalls (portrayed as a child by Tom Guiry). He’s the new kid in a 1962 suburban California neighborhood. He moves in just before the end of school and has no real way to make friends.
His stepfather, Bill (portrayed by Denis Leary) is a jock with a room filled with trophies and other sports paraphernalia. Although Scotty wants to learn to play catch with Bill, he mostly gives lip service to the idea.
Scotty follows boys from the school to the sandlot and sees some real talent. He’s intimidated by their talent. He figures he’ll just sort of stand in the outfield while the other eight play. They don’t keep score or choose sides – it’s mainly a fun rivalry. While he’s standing out there trying to feel like one of them while at the same time blending into the scenery, a ball comes his way. It knocks him off his feet, then he must retrieve it from where it sits near a fence by a vicious dog known as “The Beast”. His throwing abilities suck and that soon becomes evident.
Benny (portrayed by Mike Vitar) is one of the best players on the sandlot and soon takes Scotty under his wing. He gives him a mitt and advice on how to dress to fit in with the rest of the guys. He also provides playing tips. The two form a bond and soon Scotty is playing with the boys on a regular basis, although he still seems to feel the need to prove himself.
To that end, one afternoon when they are playing and lose their only ball, he runs home and grabs one off of his stepfather’s shelf. Turns out it was a ball autographed by Babe Ruth and before Scotty tells his friends this, it ends up over the fence and in the yard where “The Beast” lives. Once they realize the value of the ball they’ve been playing with, the boys come up with all sorts of schemes to retrieve the ball. There’s one more surprise waiting for them at that house, though.
The Sandlot is a sweet film that’s about friendships and how we treat each other, including the assumptions we make. Scotty and Benny learn a lesson and manage to form a friendship not just between the two of them but also with a lonely man in the end. The lesson is subtle and comes across in a way that isn’t preaching.
The acting is terrific. The young actors here really do seem like buddies and in the featurette included on the DVD they talk about the pick-up games they played during the making of the film that probably largely contributed to their familiarity on the field in the film. Tom Guiry and Mike Vitar are excellent as the friends who form a life-long friendship that summer on the sandlot, which says a lot about just letting kids play instead of the over-competitive formal sports which seems to be the only option today.
Denis Leary and Karen Allen are fine as Scotty’s parents. Allen’s part in particular is rather small, but Leary does well as the step-father who really doesn’t know exactly how to bond with the boy and consequently doesn’t form any real bond until late in the film. James Earl Jones, who must really love baseball an awful lot, has a small part here as well, but it’s a pivotal one that works quite well for him.
There are not that much in special features on the DVD. Still, The Sandlot is a nice film that’s fine for kids to watch. If you’ve ever thought we should just give kids bats and balls and let them work out the particulars, you’ll find a lot to love about this film. Even if you don’t, it’s a charming and fun film that the whole family can enjoy.
• Theatrical Trailer
• The Sandlot 2 Trailer