The Sandlot (1993)

The Sandlot is a movie directed by David Evans released in the 1990s and immediately became a cult classic, addressing the topic of baseball “Americas favorite pastime”. It is a coming of age story about 9 pre teen boys in the 1960’s who play baseball every day, in the summertime in the local neighborhood sandlot. The story’s main character is Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) the new kid in town, and the newest member of the baseball gang. He is extremely awkward, nerdy, and non-athletic but he is passionate and relentless which earns him the respect of the other kids. The second biggest character is the leader of the baseball team Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez, the most talented baseball player of the group and maybe the most charismatic as well. It is Rodriguez who sets the bar for the other kids morally and athletically. Each of the additional neighborhood kids in the crew have amusing nicknames such as “Squints”, “Ham”, and “Yeah, Yeah”, exhibiting the charm and genuine spirit of this 60’s classic. The main storyline is based on Scotty Smalls stealing a valuable baseball signed by Babe Ruth from his Step-Father and losing it to a home run blast by Smalls. The ball goes over the fence of the sandlot into the junkyard that the boys are afraid of because of their fears of the dog that guards the property. Thus the boys spend the entire rest of their summer trying to get the baseball back without actually going to the junkyard. They get extremely creative and eventually get the ball and realize that there was nothing to be afraid of, to begin with, the junkyard dog was completely friendly after all.

The story is told in a linear fashion and frames around the development and bond that Scotty Smalls makes with the boys over the summer. They create an overwhelming connection over getting the baseball back from the junkyard. The movie is paced brilliantly with minor progression then disappointments, to ultimately a great chase scene which ends with Benny Rodriguez getting the ball back. There is no cheesy big game they have to win at the end like any other kids sports movie, which is a breath of fresh air in this genre. The story also demonstrates the vastness of children’s imagination, fears, and dreams of being a pro ball player. Thus unravels the pure nostalgia of being a kid and seeing the world as a place of everlasting possibility.

The production value was very simple, which was necessary for creating a kids sports movie. It was extremely cheap to create with a budget of 7 million, with only a couple of settings. The settings were the baseball sandlot, the junkyard, and the neighborhood. These settings evoked the magic and nostalgia of the beginning of America Suburbia which was created right before the 1960’s. The Sandlot itself resembles a safe space for these boys to forget about their troubles and just have fun. The wardrobe department did an amazing job to recreate the sixties style clothing (striped shirt, loose jeans, and converse), and the cinematographer used bright colors with a subtle fade to resemble the old-fashioned style of film.  The camera angles were imperfect to resemble retro filming styles, several zoom in angles were used to show emphasis, and the soundtrack was extremely perfect and all from the 60’s, which was complimentary for this period piece. One scene that stands out the most in terms of creative framing, was when the kids got sick from chewing tobacco and the camera does a close up of them all vomiting on a carnival ride with the song “Tequila” in the background. Another one that was special, was when the camera was from the perspective of the dog in an ending chase seen.

Some values that are educed in this film are friendship and imagination. The friendship that these boys form over the sport of baseball and the mission to get the ball back is a bond that is unbreakable. Makes the viewer feel that they are a kid again, and watching this immediately makes you think of your best summers as a kid. Suggesting the spirit of being a kid in the 60s, trying dangerous things with no parent supervision is very alluring. These kids may have imperfect home lives or future promise, but the friendship and union on the Sandlot give their life excitement and significance. Imagination is another value that we see from these boys. Whether it be the childlike wonder of the great things or the bad things, these boys have huge stories with no limitations. The junkyard and the dog resemble all the boys fears in their lives whether it be bad family problems, illness, death etc. They do whatever they can to avoid the junkyard and eventually come to the reality of facing their fears. Once they do they realize that their imagination had created said fears. The director did an amazing job in this respect, putting the viewer in the perspective of the boys to feel their dreams and fears.

There is basically only one scene that has a woman and it is the teenage neighborhood lifeguard Wendy Peppercorn. The boys look at her as a sex symbol, creating the portrayal of lust. The director did a good job of having a diverse cast among the sandlot crew, the boys have a strong assortment of Hispanics, African Americans, Italians, and Caucasians. Thus showing the spirit of being a kid, not caring about race in terms of choosing friends. This is a delight to see for a movie that was set in a racist time.

The Sandlot is a masterpiece and a cult classic that will continue to be a hit for future generations. Its combination of nostalgia, implementation of childlike imagination, and the value of teamwork in sports carry the determinations for its success. Every aspect of the movie complements the purpose of the film, and gives the viewer a time portal back to their childhood. I would give the movie a 10/10 and recommend it to anyone, any gender, and any age group.

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