By Chaz Lipp
For those of us of a certain age, it’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since the release of the kid-friendly baseball comedy The Sandlot. The movie was a solid recouper at the box office in the spring of 1993, though not a runaway hit by any means. Still, home video provides a second life for many films and this one certainly benefitted from various reissues over the years. The Sandlot gained such popularity in fact, there have been two direct-to-video sequels. The first was even written and directed by the man responsible for the original, David Mickey Evans.
While I don’t personally care for this too-cute dose of pure saccharine, I acknowledge the demand for a reissue to commemorate the 20th anniversary of what is a favorite for many. This Blu-ray is unfortunately no different than the one issued in 2011. There weren’t many special features on that Blu-ray, just a five-minute promotional piece, trailers, and TV spots. That’s exactly what’s on this new anniversary reissue. The transfer and lossless soundtrack are the same, too. So what makes it any different? There’s a stack of ten trading cards in the case, depicting the characters from the film. They tossed in a standard DVD, put together some new cover art and cardboard slipcase and voilà—instant “Twentieth Anniversary Edition.”
It’s worth noting that even if you didn’t buy the previous Blu-ray, that one’s currently about five dollars cheaper on Amazon if you don’t care about the standard DVD and fancier packaging.
So, I already said I don’t care for this film and I’d prefer not to overstate my opinion. It’s a perfectly inoffensive family film targeted at young viewers. I’m not one of those cynical adult viewers who can’t appreciate a mild-mannered but well-made family film. My main problem with The Sandlot is not Evans’ rose-tinted nostalgic perspective, which steadfastly refuses to slip anything even vaguely melancholic into the mix (though that doesn’t help). It’s that I just don’t find this bunch of kids particularly funny or endearing. They annoy me, to be quite honest. And I won’t even put that on the actors themselves, I’ll instead point the finger at the writing. I would’ve rather the characters been at least a little more realistic, not such deliberate “movie kids.”
But there I go, potentially overstating my distaste. It’s a harmless little film that, in its better moments, captures a bit of that innocent summertime spirit that all kids should be so lucky to experience. Scotty (Tom Guiry) is having a tough time adjusting to his mom’s (Karen Allen) new husband (Denis Leary), who does seem vaguely creepy, truth be told. Allen and Leary are given zero time to demonstrate why they even like each other. Scotty finds solace on the rundown baseball field where he befriends a ragtag group of eight boys in need of a ninth.
Benny (Mike Vitar) is the oldest and the most devoted to baseball, while Ham (Patrick Renna) is the portly comic relief. Their mild adventures culminate with a confrontation with a scary monster dog and its mysterious owner (a large English mastiff and James Earl Jones, respectively, both of whom turn out to be not-so-scary after all). My favorite character: Marley Shelton as superhot lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn (who figures prominently in the best gag, involving Chauncey Leopardi as the bespectacled Squints—desperate to capture her attention).
While it’s not my kettle of fish where family films are concerned, it’s easy to see the gentle, sweet-natured spirit that guides it along. For those who were hoping a “20th Anniversary Edition” would actually include something special, you have my sympathies.