Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time Capsule Cinema: The Sandlot

Benny: Man, this is baseball. You gotta stop thinking. Just have fun. I mean, if you were having fun you would've caught that ball. You ever have a paper route?
Smalls: I helped a guy once.
Benny: Okay, well chuck it like you throw paper. When your arm gets here, just let go. Just let go, it’s that easy. [starts to jog away]
Smalls: How do I catch it?
Benny: Just stand out there and stick your glove out in the air. I'll take care of it.
I am not exaggerating when I say I have chills remembering the above scene from the The Sandlot (1993), which I consider to be a classic summer movie. I loved this movie in grade school and still quote dialogue to this day. During the summer of 1962 sixth grader Scotty Smalls (Thomas Guiry) is the new kid on the block and is not good at sports (he doesn't even know who Babe Ruth is). His mother (Karen Allen) tells him that she doesn't want him to stay inside and isolate himself all summer. An adult Smalls narrates the story looking back on that summer, which he calls "the greatest summer of my life."

A group of boys in the neighborhood play baseball together every day: Benny (Mike Vitar), Squints (Chauncey Leopardi), Ham (Patrick Renna), Yeah Yeah (Marty York), Kenny (Brandon Adams), Betram, Timmy, and Tommy. They never keep score and never pick sides, they just play. One day Smalls attempts to play with them but is so embarrassed after he fails to catch a fly ball he runs away. Benny still invites Smalls back to play with them (and even gives him a better mitt and baseball hat) so they can have a full team of nine guys. The boys are reluctant to let Smalls, who can't catch or throw a ball, join their gang, but Benny, a natural leader, mentors Smalls and teaches him how to catch and throw a ball.

Behind the baseball field lives a huge dog, The Beast, whose legend terrifies the boys so much they don't even think to hop the fence to retrieve any of their lost baseballs. One day they lose their last ball over the fence and Smalls, coming to the rescue, remembers the baseball his stepdad (Denis Leary) has on the mantle at home, and tells the guys he has a replacement (not realizing it is signed by Babe Ruth). Everyone celebrates when Smalls hits the ball for a homerun, but Smalls freaks out because of how angry his stepdad will be with him; the ball was signed by "some lady.... Ruth. Baby Ruth." The rest of the boys, not able to believe Smalls actually played with an autographed Babe Ruth baseball, try to help him get the ball back by thinking of creative contraptions and schemes.

The Sandlot includes plenty of quotable dialogue and unforgettable scenes, including many lines where the boys attempt to one-up each other with insults ("You play ball like A GIRL!"). My favorite line has to be "You're killin' me, Smalls!" One of my favorite moments of the movie is when the boys play baseball on the 4th of July as the fireworks go off above them and Ray Charles sings "America the Beautiful" on the soundtrack. I also enjoy the non-baseball scenes, especially when they go to the pool to cool off and Squints pretends to drown to draw the attention of teenage lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn ("I've been coming here every summer of my adult life, and every summer there she is oiling and lotioning, lotioning and oiling... smiling. I can't take this no more!"). The memorable characters in the movie bring you back to the friendships you have when you are young, when the summers felt like they lasted forever.

The Sandlot: Find it in the catalog!