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It's the early 1960s and fifth-grader Scotty Smalls has just moved into town with his folks. Kids call him a dork - he can't even throw a baseball! But that changes when the leader of the neighborhood gang recruits him to play on the nearby sandlot field. It's the beginning of a magical summer of baseball, wild adventures, first kisses, and fearsome confrontations with the dreaded beast and its owner who live behind the left field fence.
For more about The Sandlot and the The Sandlot Blu-ray release, see the The Sandlot Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on May 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, Karen Allen, Marty York
Director: David Mickey Evans
» See full cast & crew
The Sandlot Blu-ray Review
A junior high field of dreams.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, May 3, 2011
If you ever played baseball as a kid, you know the smell and texture of a supple, well-oiled mitt, even if it's been years since you last held one. You remember taking swings outside the batter's box and leaning forward off of first base, waiting to steal second. With a dull ache, you can recall the head-hanging agony of striking out, and the heart-swelling joy of watching the ball fly over the left fielder's head a split second after the crack of the bat. Arguably more than any other sport, America's Pastime is a vehicle for nostalgia, and The Sandlot—the baseball-centric 1993 coming-of- age comedy by writer/director David Mickey Evans—takes that sense of childhood summer wistfulness and runs with it. As a film, it's not exactly a homerun—it's often too indulgent with its enlarged memories and cornball narration—but if you can set aside your adult cynicism and embrace your inner junior slugger, The Sandlot is at least as satisfying as an over-the-wall ground-rule double.
Set in the hazy, bygone summer of 1962, The Sandlot follows Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry), an Erector Set-building braniac who has just moved to a suburban town in California with his mom (Karren Allen) and distant step-dad, Bill (Denis Leary). As an unremitting egghead, Scotty has no clue how to throw—or catch—which puts him at a disadvantage when trying to make friends with the neighborhood kids, who hang out on a makeshift baseball pitch in a vacant field, shagging fly balls and practicing double plays. This rag-tag group, led by young baseball hotshot Benny "The Jet" Rodriquez (Mike Vitar), is a motley crew of loveable kid-flick stereotypes, from "Squintz" Palledorous (Chauncey Leopardi), who wears thick Buddy Holly glasses, to the chunky, freckle-faced red-head, Hamilton "Ham" Porter (Patrick Renna), who eats s'mores by the fistful and makes an ideal roly-poly catcher. Director Evans' approach to the ensemble cast is to give each kid a readily identifiable quirk, but that's about as far as the characterization goes. Nevertheless, it works. (When I think about the kids who were on my little league team, they seem pretty one-dimensional in retrospect too. I'm looking at you, Lief, who sat in right field shoving dandelions up his nose for most of the season.) There are eight of these bat- swinging rugrats, and Scotty makes nine—enough for a full team. He isn't accepted at first—he doesn't even know who The Great Bambino is, and he has the annoying habit of walking the ball to the second baseman instead of throwing it—but with a little tutelage from his new mentor, Benny, Scotty eventually fits in.
So, what happens next? The short answer: not much. There's little that resembles "plot" here, as the film prefers to drift along like so many lazy August afternoons. And this is okay. Rather than building up to The Big Game—like so many other films about junior high athletic underdogs— The Sandlot plays out in a series of coming-of-age vignettes, the kind of moments that stick out when you reminisce on a particularly poignant summer. The kids go to the community swimming pool, where Squintz bravely fakes drowning in order to score some mouth-to-mouth action with the sexy teenaged lifeguard. They play night ball under the exploding Fourth of July fireworks, beat some better-equipped rivals in a throw-down scrimmage, and learn the nauseating lesson that chewing tobacco and carnival roller coasters don't—and shouldn't ever—mix. This is breezy, "time of your life" type stuff, and it only finds direction when we learn the legend of "The Beast," a mean old neighborhood dog that, as the tale goes, loves munching on both wayward baseballs and trespassing kids. The Beast lives behind the fence that forms the back wall of the sandlot's outfield, and when Benny slams a homer beyond this border, Scotty—seeing a chance to win over his new playmates—nabs a replacement ball from his step-dad's study. The ball, of course, is signed by Babe Ruth, and after it too goes sailing into The Beast's lair, the kids spend the rest of the movie devising elaborate ways to try to get it back. Look out for a cameo by James Earl Jones.
Eighteen years after its release, The Sandlot is one of those cult children's movies that can be appreciated almost equally by kids, adults, and adults who saw the film when they were kids. I belong to that last group—I was eleven when the film debuted in theaters—and what impresses me about The Sandlot now, watching it for the first time since 1993, is how well it captures the inflated feelings and memories of childhood. When the kids rig up a suction device out of three vacuum cleaners—in an attempt to retrieve the Babe Ruth ball—it explodes with the force of a mortar round, sending the young baseballers diving for cover. This is how it seemed, not how it was. To a ten-year-old, neighborhood legends have weight, and a St. Bernard might very well be feared as a near-mythical beast. Everything here is slightly larger than life. Yes, the unnecessary I can still remember when-style narration outdoes The Wonder Years for overblown 1960s nostalgia. (How innocent we were! How hopeful!) And yes, the script fails to develop any real conflict between Scotty and his stepfather, or, for that matter, any conflict at all. You could easily knock The Sandlot for being aimless, treacly wish-wash, but no matter how sentimental it gets—and it gets seriously syrupy in its final scenes—the film is too good-natured to be slammed for its overindulgences or lack of narrative focus. Ripping on The Sandlot would be like trying to form an argument against apple pie. You might think it's too sweet, but most people are going to eat it right up.
The Sandlot Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Sandlot swings onto Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's sharp, colorful, and—if I'm honest—much better than I had expected. My only quibble worth mentioning is the use of occasionally noticeable edge enhancement, which can add thin halos around certain hard outlines. It never gets to the point where the image looks artificial, though, and DNR—edge enhancement's kissing cousin—is nowhere to be found. The film's grain structure looks natural, and with the exception of a few darker scenes, it stays fine and unobtrusive. (The print itself is in great condition, with only a few minor specks and no major scratching, staining, or debris.) Clarity, for the most part, is excellent, and you'll pick up on detail you never noticed in the DVD edition. Facial textures are well-resolved, clothing has near-palpable presence, and background details—corrugated fencing, trees, etc. —are strongly delineated. Color is richly represented as well, with a bright, warm, summery palette heavy on green grass, pale blue skies, and sun- drenched dust. Black levels are solid, contrast is tight, and skin tones are consistently natural. Besides a few patches of noise, I didn't notice any blatant compression problems or encode issues. Fans probably couldn't ask for more.
The Sandlot Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like most 20th Century Fox releases, The Sandlot sports a capable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The surround channels are only sparsely used for score and quiet ambience, but this mix gets all the essentials right: Dialogue is clear and comprehensible, with no muffling or peaking. The various period pop/rock tunes—like the ubiquitous "Tequila"—have clarity and presence. And the sound effects—the crack of a bat, the monster roar of The Beast, fireworks bursting in air—have appropriate heft. Some additional rear channel involvement would be appreciated, especially in key "action" scenes—I don't recall any distinct cross-channel movements—but this is likely a direct, lossless copy of the film's original sound design, so I have no real complaints. The disc also includes an English Dolby Digital 2.0 fold-down, Spanish and French 2.0 dubs, as well as English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
The Sandlot Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A straight port of the bonus features from the DVD edition, here you'll find a short featurette (SD, 5:51), the film's theatrical trailer (SD, 2:31), and a handful of TV Spots (SD, 3:44).
The Sandlot Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Do you, or have you ever, played baseball? If yes, you'll probably find a lot to love in The Sandlot, which has its problems, sure—it wants to seem grander and more profound than it actually it—but also side-skirts many of the clichés that often go along with kids' sports movies. This is pretty much a straight port of the DVD edition, but the film looks great on Blu-ray, so if you're a fan, it's probably worth the upgrade. Recommended.
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