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THE SANDLOT

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This locally-filmed family picture gained much of its enduring popularity after its theatrical release and remains a favorite in Utah — and a lot of other places. The SCERA Theater in Orem is showing the film as part of its ongoing Cinema Classics series and you can see it there on Tuesday, April 30, at 10 am. My review was published in the Deseret News on April 9, 1993.

The new kid in town is a dweeb when it comes to playing ball. But with the help of his reluctant, distracted stepfather and the local kids down at the sandlot where an eight-member team plays daily, he'll get the hang of it. He'll have to. They need a ninth player.

That's basically the overriding storyline in "The Sandlot," set in 1962 in an unnamed small American town. And the new kid, Scotty (Tom Guiry), even narrates the yarn, a la "The Wonder Years," albeit without the wit.

     

James Earl Jones confronts two of the kids playing ball in "The Sandlot."

This is an ensemble film, however, gradually building on a series of comic vignettes to the climactic confrontation between the boys and the monstrous junkyard dog that lives on the other side of the fence at the back of the sandlot.

Almost equal time is given several other team members as the group goes through various coming-of-age encounters — chewing tobacco and getting sick on a tilt-a-whirl ride (culminating, unfortunately, with graphic vomiting), stealing a kiss from the shapely teen lifeguard at the community pool, and using poor judgment when a new baseball is needed to continue a game.

Some elements work better than others. It's hard to believe, for example, that Scotty has never heard of Babe Ruth and the ending is just about as sappy as they come. Worse, co-writer/director David Mickey Evans (writer of "Radio Flyer") indulges his worst instincts, padding many scenes so that they seem to go on forever.

     

And it's too bad that a talented actress like Karen Allen is cast as Scotty's mother but is given nothing to do. (Better off is James Earl Jones, doing yet another of his patented end-of-the-movie cameos.)

But if you can accept "The Sandlot" on its own terms, as a sentimental, nostalgic look at growing up, through that overused metaphor, baseball, and take to the kids as updated, ragtag versions of the old "Our Gang" youngsters, you'll have fun. More important, young audiences will have fun.

"The Sandlot" is rated PG for profanity, vulgarity and some violence — all of it relatively tame.