‘Films To Be Thankful For’ is a column dedicated to providing mini-reviews for the films I am thankful were made, as they inspired me in some way.
I never liked baseball. I saw it as a very slow, boring game with no energy. All of that changed when I saw the movie The Sandlot for the first time. The plot is simple. Scott Smallls (Tom Guiry), a new kid in town in 1960 or thereabouts, moves to a new town where he doesn’t know anyone. He’s encouraged by his stepdad (Denis Leary), who Smalls is still getting used to being around, to make friends with the other neighborhood kids. To his surprise, he discovers they all enjoy playing baseball. Scott isn’t good at playing baseball, but eventually, he gets good at playing baseball, and all the neighborhood kids former band playing America’s great game.
The film takes an interesting turn in the second act when the best better on the team breaks open the baseball they usually use to play in the sandlot. This results in Scott going to get a ball from his stepfather’s trophy room, and unbeknownst to the other boys, that ball was signed by Babe Ruth. When they hit the ball out of the park into a neighbor’s yard where a massive dog referred to as “The Beast” comes into its possession, they mount a rescue mission to retrieve it so that Scott doesn’t get murdered by his father or at least severely punished.
The Sandlot was made in 1993 by first-time writer/director David Mickey Evans. I recently watched an interview with the director, and he basically scouted the local neighborhoods to find the best pieces of open space as fields for the movie. The movie maybe takes place in California, but the scouted location used was in Utah. This movie was made on a very small budget of $7 million, and by 1993 standards, that’s low, but it never shows in the finished product.
The cast is phenomenal. Special mention should go to Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi, Marty York, and Brandon Quintin Adams. These actors sold the passion for playing baseball so well that even I wanted to join a team. There is something transportive that can be felt watching this movie as it takes the audience back to a time when they were children and had that kind of fun without consequences. This movie is great at capturing the nostalgia I never had the opportunity to experience, and I think that’s what makes it special. It’s the best form of escapism for adults. That is its magic.
There are some fantastic moments in The Sandlot. The time the entire team goes to the carnival for the day, it’s too hot, and they all head to the pool. It is summer fun at its greatest. This movie remains in my memory because it’s so identifiable with what a kid would do if given that much freedom and free time. Evans makes sure there’s not one wasted moment in the film and even throws in a few surprises towards the film’s climax that make this film have a much more lasting impact than someone might imagine.
In essence, I’m thankful for this movie because it’s childhood in 90 minutes. A place where we can all escape and remember the magic of America’s great past time and acknowledge that this movie helped explain the joy of being a kid.