The Sandlot - 30th Anniversary Review
Tell me, what were your ideal experiences from your childhood? The way I see it, the purest of childhoods would’ve been made of life events where those who experienced it just felt free, like they’ve gone out and felt more alive or appreciated than ever before. But, of course, this can come in many forms. They could come in the form of best friends, overwhelming occasions, victories over ordeals, reigning supreme where you would’ve least expected it; the list goes on.
On the side, many films tried to capture the pure essence of such childhoods, some more successfully than others. First, there are the slightly selfish yet longing kinds of childhoods, like ‘A Christmas Story.’ Then, there’s the brutal yet resilient kind, like ‘Stand By Me.’ The silly yet adventurous type, like ‘The Goonies’. The crazy yet meaningful childhoods, like ‘Super 8’.
And then, some portray childhood as it is, like the cult baseball classic, The Sandlot.
Here’s what went down. In the early 1960s, a young boy named Scotty Smalls moved into a new neighborhood with his family. Where from? What’s the name of the new town? Those were not explained too much. But school went out, and Smalls was unfortunate enough to have brought a friendless zone with him. Part of that may be because Smalls was into tinkering around with scientific projects in his room. Because of this, Smalls’ mother encouraged him to walk out into the fresh air and see if he could make some friends nearby. At first, Smalls thought he blew it hard when he tried to join a ragtag team of baseball players who played out on a makeshift baseball field in the neighborhood, who were baffled over the idea that he couldn’t have thrown or caught a baseball. Now, how Smalls couldn’t have done that, I never entirely understood. But considering Smalls’ background as a freelance creator of machinery, I’d say he may’ve been more brains than brawn.
However, after a botched attempt to play catch with his stepfather, Bill, resulted in him getting a black eye, a young boy named Benny, who saw Smalls in the sandlot the other day, invited him to join him and his friends to the next baseball game they’re going to play. Smalls accepted, but reluctantly so, for he was still unsure whether he could’ve gotten any better at throwing or catching the baseball. From then on, what came forth was – as Rick Blaine said it – the beginning of a beautiful friendship, Scotty getting continually better at baseball, and countless adventures and shenanigans for the Sandlot gang to experience in and out of the field.
However, one of the most suspicious elements of their adventures together revolved around a brutish, monstrous animal known as The Beast. According to local legend, he grew up to feast off human flesh, starting with those of robbers, criminals, and even a young kid and was allowed to do so by his owner, Mr. Mertle. That’s why the kids got upset every time a ball flew out of the sandlot and over the fence; behind it was Mr. Mertle’s backyard, a.k.a. The Beast’s territory. And once that ball went over there, as did anyone who attempted to reclaim it, they disappeared. So, when Scotty made the mistake of using a prize ball for one of their games that ended up in Mr. Mertle’s backyard, this put them in a corner. How would they get it back? Could they get it back? How would they have confronted The Beast himself to do so? Would there have been more to this animal and Mr. Mertle than the kids had suspected?
It’s a relatively small film, with most of the story centered around day-to-day life experiences throughout the summer. But that’s what contributed to its collective flamboyancy. Anyone who’d been a kid and had many adventures with other kids around their age, especially in the 1960s, had to have gone through what the kids in ‘The Sandlot’ have.
Besides Scotty meeting the sandlot gang and dealing with The Beast – I’ll elaborate more on that later – some of the adventures they went on were just fun, exciting, or served as good wake-up calls after expecting them to be terrific experiences.
For instance, before Scotty came along, Benny and his teammates always put up with the snooty antics of a boy named Phillips and his gang of Little League baseball players. After a generally hilarious one-off between Phillips and Ham, the sandlot gang and the privileged baseball team faced each other off the following day to see which team would’ve outperformed the other. I don’t know how long they’ve known each other, but I can tell they hated each other’s guts for a long time.
Also, even though Phillips and his Little Leaguers were subtle about their sense of discrimination against minorities, like when he dismissed Benny’s ragtag team as rejects and not just Kenny Denunez, I can’t help but wonder if Benny and some of his friends felt the same way. For example, when Benny and his friends argued about letting Scotty join their team, Yeah-Yeah suggested bringing his sister along, whereas Benny thought that with nine guys, they would’ve made a whole team. I think that’s another level of subtle discrimination on their part. Still, it vaguely resembled the general attitude toward women, people of different ethnicities, and the like back in the 60s.
There were also plenty of times when Benny showed absolute commitment to baseball. As Scotty put it about Benny’s love for the sport::
Benny would’ve played ball all day, all night, rain, shine, tidal wave, whatever. Baseball was the only thing he cared about.
It was apparent when Benny was slightly disheartened about having to forgo baseball when it got too hot for the gang to play or even be in the right mood. And, once the Fourth of July crept up, the lights from the nearby fireworks would’ve been plentiful enough to afford a nighttime game. It was terrific to watch because, as Scotty put it, it made the kids feel one step closer to feeling like they were playing in a full-scale baseball stadium, at least when they weren’t busy gazing in awe at the fireworks.
Even the shots, locations, and positions generally matched the childhood aesthetic to a tee. It was mostly sunny throughout the movie, so it captured how it’d feel to be a kid in summertime: the warmth, the frenetic energy, the vast amount of free time on your hands. Dipping into Scotty Smalls’ shoes and assessing things through him grew to be an imminent invitation to relive a glorious moment in your life where everything made sense and the world opened up to you.
Remember how I mentioned the soft, wintery glow apparent throughout A Christmas Story and how it felt like a slightly visually romanticized portrait of childhood around Christmastime? That’s the same feeling I felt throughout The Sandlot regarding summertime experiences. And what made it even better was that it was not just one kid going out on all these adventures, but also the kids he joined for such adventures as these. How could anyone not feel like a kid again and experience life’s joys and fears the way, Scotty, Benny, and the others did?
Speaking of which, the framing of the stories concerning The Beast seemed generally typical of the overplayed imaginations of children who listened to this. Twenty years ago, Mr. Mertle got himself a new dog to watch over his junkyard for him and started by feeding him beef until he grew up to be several feet tall and strong enough to take down anyone who broke in, so much so that The Beast became a bona fide killing machine and left anyone who dared to venture into his and Mr. Mertle’s territory for dead. Because of this, after police reports concerning the missing thieves surfaced, Mr. Mertle was ordered to chain up The Beast and keep him from terrorizing the neighborhood for as long as he lived. Not to mention, the filming styles of The Beast, especially whenever he confronted anyone, underwent various stylistic touches, going from monster movies to westerns.
Also, some of the effects and parallels with The Beast were flaky but still gave the right impression of what the kids thought The Beast was like. Most of the visual effects were artificial before he appeared, adding to the unreal factor concerning The Beast and his reputation throughout the neighborhood, not to mention his threat factor. And when they discovered who he was, he turned out to have been just a bulky old guard dog who was not as harmful as the kids made him out to be.
Put simply, the visual styles throughout the movie were terrific and gave it a sense of style and atmosphere.
Now that I got the essential elements of the story out of the way, how are the characters?
With Scotty Smalls, he seemed like an ordinary kid who was talented in some things, like the scientific contraptions he made in his bedroom, but not in others, like catching or throwing a baseball. But, with the help of his friends, starting with Benny, he grew to become just one of the kids, the kind who just let loose and had fun the first chance he got. However, some elements to him demonstrated his comprehension, if not inadequacies, of his capabilities. One day, when the leather came entirely off the ball that Benny hit, Smalls said he had a ball back home for his friends to use. But A: it belonged to Bill, and he thought about using it as long as he returned it. And B: that ball was signed by Babe Ruth, and because Smalls didn’t know him well, he swiped the autographed ball, unaware of the significance behind the player and the ball he stole. So, when the adult Scotty mentioned how he got himself and his friends in the biggest pickle of his life, he meant it. Smalls got himself and his friends in a pickle after hitting that ball and losing what he didn’t realize was a collectible piece of baseball history to one of the most locally feared animals in the neighborhood. So, by the time he caught on to his mistake, he did whatever it took to make things right by himself and for his friends and family.
Some people looked at this in a straight-up “What in God’s name were you thinking?” manner, like they were dumbfounded over Smalls doing something utterly unthinkable without him thinking of it or the consequences. Although to be fair, even his friends initially reacted the same way when they caught on to what kind of ball Smalls brought with him and hit over the fence towards The Beast. But you know what? I prefer a hero who screws up and learns from his mistakes over a hero who is distinguishably good at everything he does or who screws up without learning from his mistakes. Because simply put, I could tell how much Smalls regretted what he did as it dawned on him just what a priceless ball it was that he sacrificed to The Beast.
In fact, the lesson-learning could apply to all the Sandlot kids in some way, too. Remember the scene where they all munched down on chewing tobacco?
What happened was, they celebrated their victory against the Little Leaguers I spoke of after they creamed them in their field. So then, they decided to “sweeten” their celebration at a local amusement park with a box full of Big Chief to chew, simply because back then, that’s how the most famous baseball players did their thing. Yeah, huge mistake. Soon, as they rode it out on the Round-Up, the Sandlot kids quickly felt nauseous and gradually puked their guts out all over the ride and the fairgrounds.
Who needs Pleasure Island when you can have firsthand experience for a teacher? Because apparently, they caught on to their lesson the hard way.
Speaking of which, let’s look at the other characters.
Benny felt like a decent, “older brother” type character with the best interests at heart, whether for his teammates, Smalls, or his satiation over his baseball ventures. He always called out to his friends to join him at the sandlot as early as 8:00 in the morning and was slightly disheartened about the idea of not doing so on a hot day. Usually, this type of conscientious characterization would run the risk of being too sweet or one-note. But there’s just something about his general attitude, lingo, and how they all matched up with those of his comrades even before Scotty Smalls joined in. That tells me he’s a little rugged and more aggressive than Scotty or his friends, yet his heart of gold made him look like a natural-born leader. And once you see him come close to The Beast, what he achieved after that demonstrated more hidden talents than I bet even he would’ve seen coming.
Assessing the dream Benny had of Babe Ruth talking to him and encouraging him to hop over the fence to snatch the ball, I somehow got the impression that, psychologically speaking, it hinted at a slight doubt stemming from Benny’s mind concerning The Beast and his reputation throughout town. And it also may relate to how he wanted to be just like Babe Ruth in terms of unique abilities. So, this kind of analysis on his part added another level of respectable evaluation to this character.
As for the other characters?
Frankly, the least interesting characters in the sandlot gang would be Kenny Denunez and Bertram Grover Weeks. I think Bertram was more generic because, by comparison, given what time this picture took place, it would’ve seemed slightly standoffish for Kenny to be part of the Sandlot gang, let alone be in their company, given how people like him were commonly treated back then. Even compared to how women like Wendy Peffercorn would’ve been treated, this would’ve seemed unusual. But then again, I guess life in the 60s, down to how minorities and gender groups were treated back then, may not have been as clean-cut as it seemed. So, it’s cool to see Kenny mixed in a crowd like this.
That, and I remember Kenny mentioning his “Heaters” as he prepared to pitch his ball to his friends his way. And I remember Bertram providing the chewing tobacco that left him and his friends losing their lunches. But they felt memorable for one thing I’ll mention in the review soon.
Most of the other kids in the gang might have been standard but had the benefit of having certain tics that pertained to their personalities. For example, Yeah-Yeah got his nickname because he said “yeah, yeah,” at the beginning of most of his sentences. And, while it was never shown, Yeah-Yeah reportedly ran like a duck, as Benny pointed out.
I must say, though, when he, Smalls, and the rest of the Sandlot gang tried to retrieve something as personal to Scotty and his stepfather as the Babe Ruth ball from the Beast after it flew into Mertle’s backyard, what made Yeah-Yeah participate in retrieving the ball via airborne suspending?
Timmy and Tommy Timmons felt like an entertaining duo. While they never had much characterization, they still felt intrinsically distinctive because of how they were related. Plus, Timmy and Tommy were memorable mainly because whenever Timmy said something, Tommy would’ve repeated it to whoever was being told about what Timmy said.
However, for my money, the two most memorable kids from the Sandlot gang were Hamilton “Ham” Porter and Michael “Squints” Palledorous.
Ham was the group’s quote ‘fat kid’ and the team’s catcher. What I find so memorable about him is his generally offbeat and subtle sense of retaliation, whether it’s to lay things out to Scotty or when he confronted Phillips about baseball, culminating in the famous line:
You play ball like a girl!
I had never caught this about him before, but he was a little more mischievous than he let on. As a catcher, he’d make some small talk, but it was usually to distract the player at bat, whether playfully with Smalls or to trick his opponents. Little moments such as these, as well as his deliveries of some genuinely good lines, made him feel like a true knockout, so to speak.
Although I’ve got to say, it’s reassuring to see him not be weighed down by the ‘fat kid’ stereotype and eat at every moment he got. He just did his own thing, and the closest he ever came to being obsessed with food was when he showed Scotty how to make a s’more and overate a bit at a local Fourth of July barbecue.
And then there’s Michael “Squints” Palledorous. Given all the ‘Christmas Story’ comparisons going on here, he must be the Schwartz of the group because he felt like the smart-aleckiest kid in the gang. He always had a sense of craftiness in his actions, especially given his affair with Wendy Peffercorn, and his sometimes-wily nature can add a lot to what he did. However, he also felt interesting as far as his connections with The Beast mystery were concerned. According to him, his grandfather, Squidman, was a local policeman when news about The Beast and Mr. Mertle spread like wildfire, and he was the one who advised Mertle to keep his dog away before he did any further harm. However, given how exaggerated children’s recollections of past events could’ve been as far as Squints was concerned, even that could’ve been taken with a pinch of salt.
But do you know what I found out about these kids that I admire about them? The sandlot kids may have been as memorable as they were because of their natures.
The way these children acted and did their own thing or with each other seemed to scream childlike elements as only kids would’ve done best. Sometimes, there’s no need to dive into complexity to craft a compelling character. All you’d need to start with is the essential elements of a character and have fun with it, depending on what could be added to each character to keep them memorable. And everyone in the gang, even the weakest ones like Bertram and Kenny, felt memorable because of their intrinsic natures, thus contributing to their collective charm. Because The Sandlot is about a childhood summer and makes you feel like being a kid again, it’d leave you feeling about kids like them the same way you’d feel in real life if you were acquainted with them a such a young age.
So, maybe the source of such intricate, inquisitive natures stems from David Mickey Evans’ directing and writing. He has usually been great about telling stories about the joys of childhood and companionship and the lasting effects it can have on them as the kids grow older. Evans tried that with Radio Flyer, even if, from what I heard, it didn’t work. But other times, like with The Sandlot here, it pulled you back into your childhood years.
Speaking of whom, much like Jean Shepherd did to Ralphie Parker, David Mickey Evans did the voiceover narration as the adult Scotty. His solid yet modest voice resonated succinctly in Scotty’s recollections of his adventures with his friends on the sandlot. And for the most part, his ways of describing what went on in his childhood did feel slightly equivalent to reconnecting with his inner child as he did so. However, whereas Shepherd’s narrations felt like upbeat recollections of a warm time, Evans’ narrations felt more like warm recollections of an upbeat time.
Another thing that’s so distinctive about Evans’ narrations that I admire is when he prefaced several designated scenes with “the most (add superlative and noun here) any of us had ever done/seen.” Instead of feeling repetitious, the tone and rhythm in which he said those lines threw in some buildup. Whenever I heard him say that, I thought, “Uh-oh, what did they do?” They made me more curious about what had happened with Scotty and his friends during that glorious summer. In a way, that’s another hallmark of David Mickey Evans’ talents.
In addition, unlike A Christmas Story, where the adult Ralphie was present throughout the movie via voiceover narrations, The Sandlot was bookended by a man who geared up for the forthcoming Los Angeles Dodgers game as its game announcer. It turned out he was the adult Scotty, and among the Dodgers team was the adult Benny, who, after his encounter with the Beast and how speedy he was in outrunning him, earned him the nickname Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodrigeuz. While the adult Scotty was played by Arliss Howard, not David Mickey Evans, he captured Tom Guiry’s likeness so instinctively that when he did, I could tell right away it was him. And interestingly, the adult Benny was played by none other than Mike Vitar’s older brother, Pablo. Nothing like family resemblances to get you somewhere!
The other central characters in this movie would probably be Scotty’s parents.
Scotty’s mother felt like a generally decent, supportive mother who’d always look out for the best in Scotty Smalls, especially when a new neighborhood and the summer beginning to sprout forth was the perfect opportunity for Scotty to make some friends. And she was slightly encouraging Scotty to give it a whirl with Bill over playing catch, even if Scotty wasn’t sure of when or how to pull it off right.
Speaking of which, Bill felt like just a generic father figure. But what kept him intriguing as a character was his position in the family as a stepfather. Whenever he and Scotty spoke to one another, their attempts to grow closer together felt genuine. It’s not like Peter and Robert Seaver in Homeward Bound, where their miscommunications were prone to invite tension between them. Scotty and Bill felt like they wanted to maintain a good, healthy relationship with each other but still had some awkward terrain to work their way through. It was especially crucial knowing how much of a dedicated businessman Bill was shown to be. So, this felt more like the stepfather-stepson relationship explored on a more comedic, grounded terrain.
Speaking of relationships, let’s talk about the one relationship that others felt a little weirded out by: Squints Palledorous and Wendy Peffercorn.
Throughout the movie, Squints had the hots for Wendy, so he couldn’t help but gaze at her googly-eyed whenever she was around. And when he and his friends went out to the pool, rather than scope out the ‘pool honeys,’ they were there because Wendy was the lifeguard. So after putting up with staring at her in the pool for three summers, as Kenny mentioned, what did Squints do? First, he jumped into the pool’s deep end and looked like he had drowned. But then, as Wendy gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive him, Squints turned out to have faked it so that, by the time Wendy’s lips were on his, he would’ve taken the chance to steal a kiss from her.
Many people dismissed this as a sexual assault on a middle-aged woman and that the reactions centered around it, plus hers, felt a tad mild compared to what would usually have been done to a kid who made moves on someone like that. They also weren’t on board with Wendy feeling smitten by Squints after throwing him out and even marrying him, as Scotty mentioned in the epilogue. But I don’t know. I suspected that Wendy returned his glances with a seemingly subtle, innermost lovey-doviness like it was more than just polite acknowledgment. For example, Wendy glanced at Squints with a bit of dreaminess as she passed him by on her first appearance, and even after throwing him out, she still looked at Squints with a smile on her face.
Either Wendy might have been on the same level of craziness as Squints, or there was something about Squints that Wendy liked all along and it was never explained to us.
Also, when I saw this, I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if it had played out the other way around. What if it was a young girl making such desperate attempts on a hunky male lifeguard? How would it have turned out then?
But now, let’s move on to the acting because this might have been one of the movie’s strongest points.
The acting by Denis Leary and Karen Allen as Scotty’s parents felt very modest and hit the right notes as parents who wanted what was best for Scotty, even if some of their methods differed. Denis Leary felt a little confident underneath his more modest demeanor, and Karen Allen gave off just the right tenderness to evoke a concise, natural response to her. Although I must say, it was a bit trippy to watch her play a low-key mother after engaging in risks of life and limb under Steven Spielberg’s supervision in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ But hey, if Melinda Dillion could’ve played a good mother after being thrust into action in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ also by Steven Spielberg, then so could’ve Karen Allen.
I might add, the actor playing Babe Ruth in Benny’s dream, Art LaFleur, felt like he just became Babe Ruth. His mannerisms, speech patterns, and likeness seemed like perfect replications of who Ruth may have been like in person. I even remember reading that he starred in Field of Dreams, so the connections between here and that movie, and not just A Christmas Story, were fun to catch.
But let’s face it here: there are two major acting highlights to overlay here.
The character, Mr. Mertle? I believe that this character was written and framed as he was to prepare us for the culminating moment: when he came out, Mertle was not only not as massive a threat as the kids feared he was going to be, but he was also played by Darth Vader and Mufasa himself, James Earl Jones. Once he stepped into the movie, you could feel his presence. And for his little time in the movie, he conveyed his character with a powerhouse display of dignity and borderline honor. It turned out that Mr. Mertle was a friend of Babe Ruth’s who wanted to steal his thunder and be a baseball legend, like the kind that Babe Ruth became. However, he was out running in the field, and when he least expected it, an incoming ball knocked out his sight and left him blind. For someone that the kids feared was an immoral junkyard owner who allowed The Beast, or, as the dog was named, Hercules, to munch off intruders, Mertle came across as a complete surprise. But it wasn’t just to the kids because of who he turned out to be. He was also a surprise to the audience because of the significance of the role backing up this character. Jones portrayed Mr. Mertle similarly to how Robert Duvall played Boo Radley in in To Kill a Mockingbird and made the most of his time in the film, contributing to some of The Sandlot’s most touching and potent scenes.
And much like LaFleur, he also starred in Field of Dreams, making the connections between both actors and both movies feel less like a coincidence.
Even then, however, the real stars of this movie were the boys who played Scotty, Benny, and the rest of the Sandlot gang. If there’s a real reason the film worked so well, outside of David Mickey Evans’ storytelling and directing skills, it’d be the performances by these boys as the Sandlot kids. They all owned their roles because of how much they acted just like kids.
If I had evaluated the characters on paper, they would’ve felt bland and light. But everyone in the group knew how to take each sandlot player down to their general characteristics and bring them to life. Their movements, reactions, and camaraderie added so much personality to each character that they made each character feel real, regardless of how much we know of each of them. For me, the standouts among them were Marty York as Yeah-Yeah, Patrick Renna as Ham, Chauncey Leopardi as Squints, Mike Vitar as Benny Rodriguez, and even Tom Guiry as Scotty Smalls. Their inflections did the most work required to arouse intrigue and make them as memorable as they became.
I am also fond of the music. David Newman did the score, and while it wasn’t substantial, it still expressed some soft, modest vibes that segued into the serene thrills of summer. The opening theme song and the music surrounding The Beast were among the highlights he composed for the film, and I still listen to them whenever I can. The pop songs selected for the movie were very flavorful, too; they provided an extra backdrop to heighten the movie’s nostalgic, 60s-oriented feel. And it did so with such classics as “This Magic Moment,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Green Onions,” “Wipeout,” Ray Charles’ take on “America the Beautiful,” and, of course, the famous song that accompanied the fair scene in all its nauseating glory, “Tequila.” They all provided a cohesive, upbeat, rock-n-rolling foray into the rhythmic jumbles of 1960s culture, and they complimented the story of The Sandlot wonderfully.
While the essence of childhood was spotlighted throughout the movie, I was intrigued by watching how baseball worked as the kids played it. As it is, it could be an excellent introduction to baseball for the younger viewers watching this, some for the first time. Of course, it may not have dived as deep as it could’ve into the basics of baseball play, like center, left, right, first, second, third, catcher, pitcher, or shorthand. I even remember those being listed off in something like The Berenstain Bears Play Ball, for Heaven’s sake. But the general idea is still there regardless, and watching it happen feels like a neat way to understand the gameplay and get invested in it.
With all that I laid out so far about the movie, it’d seem that there’s a general lightness permeating the film that might’ve been unnecessary. It’s not so much about Scotty Smalls’ settlement in a new place or even about the thrills that come with baseball as it is how Smalls made new friends in a new town and what adventures they had together. But rather than being its biggest weakness, its simplicity came across as its greatest strength, besides just the acting. Sometimes, you can never go wrong with simplicity.
The general lightness helped when highlighting something as simple as a kid learning about baseball, a boy crushing on and later kissing a woman, or kids reacting to the horrors that came with an equally feared local legend. If The Sandlot told its episodic story with layers upon layers onto it and the characters, it’d make it feel a bit discombobulated as a comedy. They’d feel out of place and might not have meshed well with what the movie meant to be about.
The way I understood it, layers applied to the story and characters would work depending on the stakes being dealt with. The Goonies had the search for a legendary pirate ship, plus a criminal family that’s also looking for it. Super 8 had a mysterious creature let loose by a train wreck, plus a government conspiracy in connection with it. Stranger Things dealt with long-term human experimentation on top of the fact that an ‘Upside Down’ world existed beneath Hawkins. The most drastic that ‘The Sandlot’ ever got in stakes was the mystery surrounding the vicious local neighborhood dog and the trauma of discovering what you sacrificed too late. And for what the rest of ‘The Sandlot’ had to offer because of it, I think it works.
For what it had going for it, it proved itself a gradually far-reaching classic to those fortunate enough to experience it. So how influential has it become? Well, the last time this movie was brought up, there had been some talk of a prequel film being considered for The Sandlot, along with - get a load of this - a sequel TV series that would reunite the cast members of the original movie for Disney+. And all with David Mickey Evans being expected to oversee both. The movie’s legacy is that enduring. So I’m curious to see where these extra installments would take the story of The Sandlot. And believe me, having seen The Sandlot 2 – and I’ve yet to see The Sandlot: Heading Home – my biggest hope is that these follow-ups would understand what made The Sandlot so special and expand upon it instead of merely coming across as knockoffs of the film.
The prequel, meant to hit theaters first, feels like a peculiar narrative direction for The Sandlot to take. I could see this movie working if it focused on either Benny or Mr. Mertle and Hercules. The social highlights surrounding Benny or the seeds that sprouted into the legend of The Beast feel juicy enough to make for a decent Sandlot prequel. And regarding the TV series, as long as it takes a page from A Christmas Story Christmas and continues the story of the original Sandlot gang in a way that feels more natural and interesting, and not just as a de-facto reunion, I’m all for it.
However, whether it’s a sports movie or not, The Sandlot is still as fun and riotous as the life events the kids experienced. It embodied A Christmas Story’s nostalgic and childlike qualities and the communal, adventurous essence of movies like The Goonies. And the result is a terrific family adventure film with just enough innocence and imagination to keep the kids intrigued and enough nostalgia value for the adults to appreciate in equal measure.
If a movie like this amounted to a solid few whacks of the bat, what’s not to like?