sandlotcoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  Yes
1993, 101 min., Color
Rated PG for some language and kids chewing tobacco
Aspect ratio:  2.35:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  C-
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD

The Sandlot always struck me as a more kid-friendly version of Stand by Me. It’s a frame story narrated by an adult who recalls one extraordinary childhood summer and a very special best friend. However, instead of a quest to find a dead body, it’s a signed Babe Ruth baseball the kids are after, and what stands in their way isn’t a bunch of older hoodlums with switchblades, but an enormous animal they call “The Beast.”

More than coming of age, The Sandlot is about baseball . . . or the love of baseball. So what better timing than to release a 20th Anniversary Blu-ray the Tuesday before the 2013 season openers?

The year is 1962. Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) has just moved to a small neighborhood outside L.A. with his mother (Karen Allen) and new stepfather (Denis Leary). Isolated and friendless, he finds his whole summer changing after a boy who lives across the street takes him under his wing. 

Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) is the best player among a ragtag group of kids who do nothing each summer except play baseball . . . and take an occasional swim in the public pool. The other guys ridicule the diminutive Smalls for his lack of athleticism, but with Benny’s support he gains acceptance. And what begins as an idyllic summer ends up a legendary one after a prized ball gets whacked over the fence where a frightening junkyard dog lives.

sandlotscreenThese kids call each other names (and say some pretty insulting things about each other’s mothers) as kids are apt to do, but their swearing is tame (and minimal) compared to most films like this. And while they all chew tobacco once, the lesson for any kid watching is quickly learned. Is the dog too frightening? Preschoolers and youngsters in the lower grades may need to be reminded it’s just a movie, but for the most part the humor is obvious enough that it blunts any perceived peril. A series of fantastic schemes to fetch the ball also take the edge off.

The Sandlot is just a fun, funny film that holds plenty of family appeal because it has a wholesome Norman Rockwell vibe and, as with any good sports film, you don’t have to love the game to love the film. A scene with the ghost of Babe Ruth and the ending is a little cheesy, and James Earl Jones’ performance as a former major league player is so engaging you wonder why his character didn’t get more screen time. But it’s hard to find much else that’s “off.” The Sandlot may be a film about youngsters, but its appeal is much broader.