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The Sandlot (PG)
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This is something that some people might categorize as "coming of age," but personally I don't see it that way. I could almost call it a "family" movie, since it's about a bunch of kids... but nah, I think "period" is the best category for it, even if I'm not entirely comfortable with that. (But when am I ever comfortable with anything?) Anyway, it came out in 1993, but I have no idea when I first saw it, or whether I saw it on TV or VHS or what. Probably TV. And um... it could have been anywhere from the mid-90s to the early 00s. I probably thought it was sort of okay, but not that memorable. But I eventually got it on DVD, in 2013, in a set that also includes a direct-to-video sequel from 2005. (There's also a second sequel, which isn't in the set and which I have no idea whether I'll ever see.) Watching the original movie for the second time, I guess I liked it a bit better than the first time, and I could easily understand some people enjoying it a lot more than I did. I could also understand some people finding it a lot more boring than I did.

Anyway, it's set in 1962, and is narrated by an adult Scotty Smalls (in the present). Back in 1962, Scotty was a kid who'd just moved to a new town with his mom and step-dad. He wasn't any good at making friends, but a local kid named Benny Rodriguez invited him to play baseball with him and his friends at a sandlot, where they played all summer long. Scotty wasn't any good at baseball, so the other kids didn't want to accept him at first, but Benny insisted. (I wanted to ask the others if they were any good the first time they ever played, but no one ever made that point. Oh well.) But Scotty soon gets alright at the game, so the others accept him, and for most of the movie it almost seems as if he might as well have been one of them for years. Well, aside from his distinct lack of knowledge about certain things, like s'mores, chewing tobacco, and most importantly, Babe Ruth. (I'm sure that over the years I've heard numerous sitcom-style jokes about people who know nothing about sports assuming "Babe Ruth" was a girl, and of course Scotty makes the same mistake. Which I think is kind of ridiculous, because I don't even care about sports, and I know who he was.)

Um... so, yeah, mainly it's about a group of nine kids playing baseball. Aside from Benny and Scotty, there was a token fat kid named Hamilton 'Ham' Porter, who was basically the funny, sarcastic kid (and to the movie's credit, his weight is never much of an issue). And there was a kid called Squints, who wore thick glasses. And there was a kid called 'Yeah-Yeah,' who said "yeah yeah" a lot. And there was a kid named Timmy and his little brother Tommy, who repeated everything Timmy said. And there were kids named Kenny DeNunez and Bertram Weeks. I can't really say anything specific about them. (As I often need to mention, I'm not good at recognizing unfamiliar faces, so there were probably any number of the times in the movie when I wasn't sure when certain things were said or done by Scotty, Bertram, or maybe Timmy or Tommy. Which is made worse by the fact that Bertram wore glasses, which I probably should have noticed when he was speaking... or whoever was speaking.) Anyway, there are a couple of things that break up the incessant ball-playing, most memorably the day they went to a swimming pool because it was too hot to play ball. And of course because they all wanted to ogle the lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn. And Squints becomes a bit of a legend among his friends, in that scene, but I won't spoil how. (I will say, though, that it's not cool, no matter what the kids think.) Another break from baseball came when they all went to the fair one night... but that's a scene I could have very well done without.

However, the main source of drama in the movie comes when Scotty takes his stepfather's baseball without permission, after the guys lose their ball. He ends up hitting it over the fence, which borders a junk yard, which is guarded by a dog called 'The Beast.' For most of the movie, whenever we get glimpses of the dog, his appearance fits the legends about him, in which he's supposed to be this huge monster that kills anyone who ventures into the junk yard. Anyway, the guys have lost numerous balls over the fence before, and always just accept that they're lost for good. But when Scotty tells them the ball he lost was signed by Babe Ruth, it becomes a vitally important mission to get it back. So they enact several increasingly inventive schemes, which I'd say almost seem like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. And I guess that's all I want to say about the plot, except that Benny (who was always the best player on the team) becomes a legend for his ultimate effort to retrieve Scotty's ball.

It was definitely a decent movie, reasonably fun and nostalgic and whatever. Not a great movie, but... there are a number of reasons I'd say I'm not really qualified to judge it (such as my aforementioned disinterest in sports). And again, I don't think anyone would be wrong to like it either more or less than I did. Anyway, there are better movies than this that I have no interest in seeing a second time, whereas this is something I wouldn't mind watching a third time, someday....

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