Fox // 1993 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 29th, 2002
A comedy about baseball, giant mutant dogs, and other things that make summers great!
Ah yes, those hazy, lazy days of summer. For most kids, summer is sort of like an endless Christmas holiday for the soul. No work, no school, no incessant teachers prattling on about division or pronouns. Just good ol' fashioned rough and tumble playtime. Such is the case for Scotty Smalls and his new baseball playing friends in the warm-hearted comedy The Sandlot. Featuring James Earl Jones (Field Of Dreams) and world's largest St. Bernard, The Sandlot hits one outta the ballpark care of DVD from Fox Home Entertainment.
It's 1962 and a magical summer for Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry). Scotty has just moved to a small Californian town with his mother (Karen Allen, Scrooged) and stepfather (Dennis Leary, The Ref). Desiring to meet new friends, Scotty takes up with a group of boys whose sole purpose in life is to play baseball out in the local sandlot. At first laughed at because of his inexperience playing ball, Scotty is soon accepted in the group by its leader, the talented and handsome Benjamin (Mike Vitar). For Scotty and his friends, the summer is one long, exciting ball game...until Scotty accidentally loses his stepfather's autographed "Babe Ruth" baseball over the neighbor's fence. Normally this wouldn't pose a problem, except that this is no ordinary neighbor: Mr. Mertle (Jones) is a supposedly tough as nails thug who owns the world's largest, meanest, and scariest junkyard dog. With the ball being protected by the canine from hell, Scotty and his friend's need to figure out away to get Scotty's prized possession back before his stepfather finds out!
The Sandlot is a nostalgic little movie that never makes the blunder of being too sweet for its own good. Normally, fare like this falls in the hands of the Disney group, meaning the entire film is dedicated to never offending its audience or being overly risqué. Luckily, The Sandlot doesn't try to be sugar-coated or overly sentimental -- this is a movie that is pure enjoyment from beginning to end. That's isn't to say that The Sandlot includes scenes that should deter parents from letting their children see it -- it is, after all, PG. The message it sends out is one of resounding assurance: don't judge a book by its cover, and just because we're different doesn't mean we can't be friends.
The Sandlot was directed and co-written by David Mickey Evans. Evans seems to have a keen eye for the feel of the early 1960s. Evans was also the guy behind such fluff as First Kid with comic actor Sinbad and Beethoven's 4th with yet another big, slobbering hound dog. Evans also wrote the Matt LeBlanc baseball chimp debacle Ed. How he got The Sandlot produced after all those bombs is beyond me. No matter, for The Sandlot is a movie that stands on its own as a piece of nostalgia for kids and adults of all ages. While I wasn't much of a baseball player (or sports enthusiast, for that matter) as a kid, I could still relate to poor Scotty's isolation and loneliness. Maybe this is why The Sandlot will win over the hearts of most kids who watch it -- they too can relate to, well...being a kid.
Each kid actor in The Sandlot does a nice job with their role. Standouts include the portly "Ham" (Patrick Renna), the geeky "Squints" (Chauncey Leopardi), and Tommy and Timmy Timmons (Shane Obedzinski and Victor DiMattia), twin ball players (much like my real life brother and I, who are twins). The movie has some nice touches -- an attempt to "kiss" the sexy lifeguard at the local pool proves to be vastly hysterical. The boys' interaction with the huge neighborhood dog Hercules leads to some inventive and entertaining ways to attempt the retrieval of their valuable baseball. And then there's my favorite scene that involves James Earl Jones and...well, I don't want to give away the surprise. You'll just have to see The Sandlot for yourself to see what happens.
The Sandlot is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a great looking picture with all aspects of the color schemes, black levels, and flesh tones looking even and on-target. There is no interference by edge enhancement or digital artifacting. Only a small amount of shimmer shows during in a few scenes, though it isn't intrusive to the viewing. Overall, this is a very nice looking transfer by Fox. Also included on this disc is a pan & scan version of the film, but who the heck cares?
Audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Seeing as The Sandlot is really a comedy/drama without heavy effects, this 5.1 track isn't very impressive or expansive. There are a few instances where the surround feature kicks in, but overall the major portion of the movie is confined to the center and front speakers. All aspects of the dialogue, effects, and music are clear and distortion free. Also included on this disc is an English and French Dolby 2.0 soundtrack, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Aside of an anamorphic theatrical trailer and seven TV spots, The Sandlot also includes a short, six-minute featurette about the making of The Sandlot. Unfortunately, it's just your normal promotional piece -- in other words, it features some quick interviews with some of the cast and crew, shows a lot of clips from the movie, and doesn't give much insight into the production of the film.
A well done movie about baseball and the value of friendship, The Sandlot is a great story that will entertain children as well as their parents. It's got laughs, it's got drama, it's got a dog the size of a Chevy. Throw in Chevy Chase and The Sandlot just might be the perfect movie. Fox has done some nice work on this title, including a beautiful anamorphic transfer.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Theatrical Trailer
* Seven TV Spots