Ignorance is bliss. I have been cursed with the knowledge that a large majority of films are problematic in some capacity and now I cannot stop seeing it. Combined with my already far-left leanings, it’s become difficult to ascertain my feelings towards this film, which had made up a large portion of my childhood.
This is something I will henceforth refer to as a “vintage American fantasy,” because “Boomer fantasy” sounds derogatory. Baseball, hangin’ out with the boys, feasting on chewing tobacco, getting into larger-than-life adventures, and taking advantage of unsuspecting lifeguards. This is an image of American life during “simpler times,” where Summer was about playing outside, friends gave each other shit, and being called “girly” was the gravest of insults. A kind of existence that has long since passed, with the era of technology bringing about change quicker than anyone realized. As such, a nostalgia for the past will always remain a stapled tradition that appeals to those who most miss it, and 1993’s The Sandlot, which takes place in 1962, aims to please.
Unlike most of the rewatches I’ve had this month (with the exception of Night at the Museum), I have seen The Sandlot an enormous amount of times, especially around childhood. It was among my father’s favorite films, and whenever it was on TV at the time, it was a common watch for me, along with Willy Wonka. Make no mistake: I remembered quite a bit going into this for the first time as an adult. Hell, I even quote this from time to time.
My feelings towards the events that transpire within this were very wave-like. Some I really enjoyed and found very immersible, others showed the more archaic aspects of life at that time, without as much as a slap on the wrist for indulging in it (one’s even rewarded). What tended to work best with me was the camaraderie that formed between the characters and their constant badgering, resulting in playful dialogue and genuinely humorous discussion.
The main character and the film’s voice was a respectable, if not somewhat dull inclusion to grant the audience access into the Sandlot gang. His own struggles with adapting to a new neighborhood and new father were simultaneously adequate and undercooked. Yet his “pickle” ended up being the catalyst to why this film works, and why it’s so easy to ignore the more sinister jabs. Some describe this as a tremendous coming of age story, and I would agree, only adding that this is a “feel-good” story with the imagination behind it to appeal to a wider audience without seeming blatant.
Even with nostalgia (mine and others) on its side, there are some aspects of The Sandlot that wither under the gaze of critical thinking. The aforementioned undercooked aspects of the lead’s relationship with the gang and his stepfather kind of get lost in the spirit of baseball and goofing off. A decent portion of the runtime is spent doing random things, many of which lead to superfluous padding and lots of screaming. An entire few scenes smooshed together, like materials in a s’more, involving retrieving a ball from a neighbor’s backyard had the same payoff every. Single. Time. While the lead, Benny, Squints, and to some degree Ham have their time in the sun, the rest of the Sandlot crew don’t have too much of a distinct voice, with their identities relegated to simple descriptors. The tall one, the twins, the only black one, and one I genuinely can’t find any description for.
Yet the innocent passion for baseball, fun, and friendship is far too enjoyable to put the overall down much. Some of it very well may be my own experiences with it as a child, but this is something that has remained a pleasant watch no matter how many times I view it. The banter, over-the-top events, and focus on establishing a tight-knit group is something that has worked for me plenty in the past. I like these kids, and despite their horrid sexism, I was never annoyed by them being onscreen. Benny was the clear MVP, as evidenced by everyone treating him like he was meant for greatness, both in talent and personality. In truth, Benny was something of an inspiration in my formulative years—seeing an older kid lead, be kind, and persevere was awe-inspiring. I will never be as athletic, but I hope my kindness has shown through even somewhat.
With a central focus on past years, and all that come with it, there’s a certain charm that makes this lovable, assuming your standards aren’t too rigid. What it lacks in self-awareness, it makes up for with memorable writing and cute characters (don’t tell them I called them that). The Sandlot is a relic of my time (it released mere months before I was born), which makes it easy to form a personal connection, despite my interest in part of its main appeal being close to moot. Putting it mildly, I liked it, and will probably still like it years from now. You could try it, too, if you’re into baseball or kids badgering each other.
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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