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Featured Blu-ray: The Sandlot: 20th Anniversary Edition

March 25th, 2013

The Sandlot: 20th Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Sandlot opened in 1993 and only earned good reviews, but not great reviews, and went on to become a midlevel hit, but no more. On the other hand, it became a bit of a cult classic on the home market. Does its appeal depend on nostalgia? Or is it a good film in its own regard?

The Movie

The film is set in 1962, but begins in 1992 with an adult Scotty Smalls walking into work and talking about the legendary called shot by Babe Ruth and how that reminded him of a local legend, Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez.

Back in 1962, Scott Smalls just moved to a new town with his Mom, and his step-father, Bill. Scott's dad died when he was much younger and his mother married Bill about a year ago and the two haven't been able to bond. Summer is going to be really hard for Scott, because his family moved with just a couple weeks before school ended, so he won't have time to make new friends before summer starts.

Scott sees that there's a group of boys who play baseball in an empty lot. At first he just tries to sneak onto the field and, I don't know, pretend he's always been there. It's a bad plan, but he's shy and socially awkward, and sometimes people who are shy and socially awkward make bad plans. Before he can work up the courage to talk to the boys, a solid hit comes his way. It's his chance to get into the game, but he blows the catch and his throw to the infield is even weaker than his attempt to catch the ball. He's laughed off the field and goes home.

That night, Scott gets a peptalk from Mom and the next day, Scott asks Bill to teach to catch a ball. That ends with Scott getting a black eye by accident. Later on, Benny comes by to invite Scott to play baseball and introduces him to the rest of the team: Ham, Squints, Yeah-yeah, Kenny DeNunez, Bertram Grover Weeks, Timmy Timmons, and Repeats Timmons. The other kids are not so enthusiastic about letting him join, but Benny points out that none of them are all that great and they should give the kid a chance. Scott really isn't good at the game, but what he really lacks is confidence. Fortunately, Benny has enough talent for the both of them and manages to hit a long drive right into left field, and right into Scott's glove. This gives him some confidence, acceptance from the gang, and a nickname, Smalls.

The next day, Ham and DeNunez get into a verbal sparring match while the latter is pitching and the former is hitting. Ham gets hold of a fastball and scores a home run... right into Mr. Mertle's backyard. Smalls doesn't understand why they can't just hop the fence and get another. When he tries, the other kids freak out and rescue him. They warn him about, "The Beast" but refuse to explain what that is. They tell him to look through a hole in the fence, but all he sees is a giant paw and something eating the ball. Now Smalls really wants to know what The Beast is, but for that, they will need a camp out. At the camp out, Squints tells the story of The Beast, the "most perfect junkyard dog that ever lived."

(It's a fun story, so I won't spoil it here. I also won't spoil the incident at the pool with Wendy Peffercorn, or the chewing tobacco incident at the carnival.)

Getting back to the plot, later in the summer, the gang get to witness an incredible event. Benny hits a ball so hard that he literally hits the stuffing out of it. The rest of the gang is amazed that he was able to do that, but Benny's upset. He destroyed their only ball, and it's only noon, so he ruined the rest of the day. Smalls says he has another ball and runs home to get it. However, it's not his ball, but his father's ball, who is away on a business trip. And it is not just any ball, but a signed ball, a ball signed by Babe Ruth. This gang doesn't know this and Smalls doesn't tell them, until after he hits a home run right into Mr. Mertle's backyard and into the grasp of The Beast. Now it is up to the gang to get the ball back, before Bill gets back.

The Sandlot is not a sophisticated movie. It's a rather simple tale about a group of kids doing what they do during the summer. Much of the events have little to do with the actual plot (like the events at pool or the carnival) and there are many jokes that are too telegraphed and a little weak. (There's a scene where two men are carrying a cake. I'm sure 90% of the people reading this can figure out what happens to the cake.) That said, the film has heart. This film has a lot of heart and thanks to a helping of nostalgia, it rises above its simple story. I've seen this movie countless times and I still enjoy it every time I see it.

The Extras

There is some bad news; however. This Blu-ray is just the 2011 Blu-ray with a new cover, plus some baseball cards for the characters, and a standard definition copy of the movie on a flipper DVD. The only real extra is a six-minute featurette, while there is also the trailer and some TV spots. The video and audio quality are good, given the age of the film and the relatively low budget. There's good details, solid colors, strong contrast. There are a few signs of digital manipulation, but nothing major. The audio track is clear, but uncomplicated. It costs $15, which is a bit high for a nearly featureless piece of shovelware, especially one that's also a double-dip. The original Blu-ray is still on Amazon for just $10, which is probably the better deal, unless you really like Combo Packs and slipcovers and baseball cards.

The Verdict

I think The Sandlot is a must have, but admittedly that's a bit of nostalgia talking. The 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray isn't different enough from the original Blu-ray to be worth the upgrade, but if you don't own it, now is the time to get it.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Sandlot, James Earl Jones, Karen Allen, Tom Guiry, Arliss Howard, Denis Leary, Patrick Renna, Marley Shelton