The Sandlot (1993) – A Review
It’s 1963 and Scotty Smalls arrives in town. He’s got a new step-dad, no friends and doesn’t know a lick about baseball. It’s only when he befriends young baseball phenom Benny and is taken in by his ball-loving pals he begins to find his place at the sandlot.
The group of nine friends spend the summer playing ball, getting in trouble with pretty lifeguards, beating the pants off upper class ball teams and losing an autographed Babe Ruth baseball to a monstrous beast and are prepared to go to any lengths to get it back.
The phrase ‘laugh out loud’ gets tossed around with a certain bit of abandon nowadays. But there are certain jokes, one-liners, double-takes, sightgags and scenes that, without exaggeration, make me ‘laugh out loud’ no matter how many times I’ve seen them.
The Sandlot contains one of those for me.
This movie continues to hold up. I saw this when it was first released and thought it was a very funny, sentimental movie. Rewatching it I still have that reaction towards it. I watched this with my two nephews and they loved it. The younger one got a little scared by the Beast attacks and at first they thought it was a dinosaur behind that fence, but soon they were laughing along with the movie and hoping like hell the kids could get that out-of-reach baseball back.
Setting it in the past accompanied by the grown-up character of Smalls’ narration adds to the ‘once upon a time tale’ of the simpler vision of childhood everyone has. It’s been done before in films like The Summe of ’42 and Stand By Me, but it works.
Kids are running around the neighborhoods from morning to night, they’re getting into trouble and the best times of life are taking place while you’re playing with your friends. Everyone at some point in their lives will reflect back to ‘the good old days’ and nothing after will compare to that idealized version we have in our heads.
It makes a nice companion piece to A Christmas Story. It has that same kind of tone. It’s certainly better than A Christmas Story 2! It’s this kind of approach that grown-ups can identify with and get a kick out of the movie too. That nostalgic vision of what childhood means or at least how we like to think of it.
The movie is basically a series of vignettes with the goofy, fun adventures of the kids. The main story thread is little Scotty Smalls trying to fit in with this baseball loving group. He tries his darnedest to be accepted and gradually he is, despite not being a very good player on the sandlot.
It’s the whole exaggeration of the stories and nostalgic gloss that makes it so endearing. The big mean dog literally turns into a huge mythic monster. Wendy Peffercorn is described as the hottest, sexiest woman ever to have walked the Earth. She’s the epitome of what a woman is through a nine-year-olds eyes. The kids feel like bigshots getting to try chewing tobacco that ends with horrible results. And there is nothing more important in the world than having a baseball to play with.
There’s a bit of that Little Rascals-type of stuff, telling stories and devising plans in their treehouse. The kids making all their little gadgets to retrieve the ball with dramatic ultra-tight close-ups to add to the humorous tension with each attempt. It’s very funny stuff.
The kids are all pretty likable with their little quirks and nicknames like ‘Ham’, ‘Yeah-Yeah’, ‘Repeat’. It almost reminds me of a little leaguer version of Goodfellas.
Getting back to that ‘laugh out loud’ scene. Fans of The Sandlot probably know which one I was alluding to. I wish it was something surprising, but alas you had it pegged. Yes, it’s the pool scene with Squints making his big play for Wendy Peffercorn.
It’s a great scene. It’s setup beautifully, it builds with such over-the-top elegance, with the music and editing and the payoff is outstanding with the song ‘Magic Moment’ kicking in. There’s also an aspect to this scene that I can easily identify with from my youthful days of going to the community pool, eyeballing the lifeguards and my friends and I having the same idea. Come on, we all had to!
I’m actually surprised it took until 1993 for a movie to do this joke. I can recall one of my guilty pleasure movies Super Fuzz doing a similar gag, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the one in The Sandlot.
But even having seen the scene many times and knowing full well what will happen I always laugh my ass off at the skinny Squints’ seemingly deranged, unhinged laugh as he makes his way to the deep end. I can never tell if his laugh is of great joy that he’s about to do something he’s planned for so long or if he’s just completely cracked and lost all his senses.
Whatever it is, that moment makes me crack up every single time I see this clip. The whole scene is funny, but that deranged laugh as he eyes Wendy and is about to embark on this leap into manhood gets me everytime.
Funny, how a movie that is meant to have baseball as the main focus it’s the pool scene that leaves the most indelible impact on people.
Granted there’s some old movie clichés and tropes at work in the movie. The giant cake being wrecked. Scotty trying to connect with his distant step-father. The supposed scary neighbor who ends up being a kindly old man. The Beast ends up being a lovable drooling dog. The ‘Where Are They Now’ ending. But it’s all done well and I can’t say I minded any of that very much.
The Sandlot got a couple of straight-to-video sequels years later. I’m not surprised. That’s the norm today. Take a recognizable title and repackage it with another cast and try to capture what made the original so much fun – and fail miserably at it. Based on the seeing the trailer of the second one it looks pretty awful and just tries to repeat the jokes from this one. I have zero interest in it, will never be watching it and those sequels will be forgotten – if they haven’t already. The original The Sandlot will be the one that endures.
The pool scene