It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
It was only recently brought to my attention that this movie is 25 years old, which confirmed two things: one, I’m older than dog dirt and that makes me sad; two, this movie is timeless.
The nineties seemed to popularize the fish-out-of-water story in kid form, with such classics as “Heavyweights,” “Camp Nowhere” and, at least from Emilio Estevez’s standpoint, “The Mighty Ducks.” But while those movies could be construed as little more than time capsules (albeit entertaining ones), “The Sandlot” succeeds in transcending generational boundaries by telling a relatable story about good friends having good times.
A story about Smalls (Tom Guiry), the new kid on the block looking to fit in but not knowing how. He stumbles across eight boys playing baseball in the movie’s namesake, but humiliates himself. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (Mike Vitar), simply out of necessity for a nine man team, takes Smalls under his wing and helps him become not just a teammate, but one of the gang.
A gang steeped in lovable and relatable shenanigans. Who else remembers enjoying a carnival ride with the boys (without the chewing tobacco), being at the pool and ogling the girls, or helping your friend get out of, as the narrator repeatedly puts it, “the biggest pickle he’d ever been in?” And let’s not ever forget Squints (Chauncey Leopardi) having the gumption to go for the girl of his, and everyone else’s dreams, Wendy Peffercorn (Marley Shelton).
Forgive me for waxing nostalgic, but this movie always triggers the rose tinted memories of my own Sandlot. It was mine and my neighbor’s backyard, and winter was our summertime. Combined, our yards made one of the best sled-riding hills in the city, and my God would we go careening down without a care in the world. One winter, I remember the snow got so deep school was cancelled and we had to dig our own sledding path, making a child’s idea of an Olympic luge track. Another winter, it was my brother’s birthday and he wanted to go sled riding with our gang. Problem was the snow kinda iced over and the only light we had were floodlights from a home front Christmas display. To this day, my parents remark in relieved amazement that none of us got killed.
That’s part of why this movie resonates so much for me, and probably for others as well. While researching, I saw a number of 25th anniversary commemorations for “The Sandlot,” which made me wonder harder why I didn’t realize this film’s milestone sooner. Also, it got me thinking that others out there, who saw this at the prime of their youths, had their own Sandlots with their gangs they’d sooner call family than teammates. Each had their Smalls, their Squints, their head-turning Wendy’s all on their own (mis)adventures, with their own versions of “The Beast” to marvel and fear. Friends you know you’ll cherish forever, yet when the inevitable drift happens, you just let it, and the next thing you know, you’re a blogger reminiscing wintertimes with friends you haven’t contacted in over 15 years.
It’s sad when it happens, but you have the memories. “The Sandlot” isn’t just a movie for me, but a window in a simpler time where we left adulting to the adults while the kids were off doing what our parents left to their wildest imaginations. I don’t know if “The Sandlot” triggers such a hard trip down memory lane for others like it does for me, but I’d like to think it at least made them remember the time their friends all gathered around the TV to watch the VHS of the movie.
“The Sandlot” is wonderful. It’s timeless. It has its flaws, but then again, so do our memories. If I’m ever crazy enough to have children of my own, I’ll be sure to let “The Sandlot” live on not just in film form, but in their memories of bygone, better times as well.
PROS: Wonderfully nostalgic; Lovable characters and themes
CONS: Makes me want to contact old friends, but cannot find them.