Sunday, May 22, 2016

You're Killing Me, Smalls!

The Sandlot
Director: David Mickey Evans
Cast: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Denis Leary, Karen Allen, James Earl Jones
Released: April 7, 1993

This is a movie from my childhood that I really liked, but it had been awhile since I last saw it, so when I saw it was on Netflix Instant, it brought back feelings of nostalgia and I had to watch it, though, I will admit, I was a little worried it wouldn't hold up. You see, a few years ago, I was watching TV and came across The Mighty Ducks, another movie from my childhood that came out six moths before this movie (and also sports related). I had it on in the background since I was doing other stuff, but I would occasionally sit and watch the movie...and while I loved the movie as a kid (and little Pacey Witter was as adorable as ever!) and it introduced me to the awesomeness that is "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark, I just didn't think it held up that well. 

However, you can heave a sigh of relief, because The Sandlot still holds up quite nicely. I found it very charming and I laughed a lot. I think it helps that it has that timeless quality to it. It actually reminds me a lot of Stand By Me (a movie I absolutely love) except there are no dead bodies and they aren't as quite as foul-mouthed (though they still get in a few swear words) and the kids in this movie don't quite have as many problems as the kids in Stand By Me. It's like a PG rated Stand By Me with baseball, let's just put it that way. 

The Sandlot takes place in the summer of 1962. It takes place somewhere in California (that narrows it down!), but I was listening to a podcast recently and I learned that it was filmed in Salt Lake City. Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is a new kid in town and lives with his mom (Karen Allen) and stepdad (Denis Leary). He often sees a group of kids playing baseball in what is known as the sandlot. Scotty's mom tells him she wants him to go out and make friends and to get into trouble (but not too much!) She gets her husband to play catch with Scotty, only he is horrible at it. (Scotty, not the stepdad!) Not only can he not catch the ball, but instead of throwing it back (because he can't), he runs up to his stepdad to give the ball back, ha! He does catch the next ball that is thrown to him, but gets a black eye in the process because as it's hurtling towards his face, he lifts up his glove right in front of his face and the impact gives him a black eye. 

Benny (Mike Vitar), his neighbor, has seen Scotty at the sandlot a couple times and invites him to play ball with them. They have eight kids playing already, so a ninth will give them a team. The actors range in age from 11-14, so the median age is 12 which is the age I was when I saw this movie for the first time and the target age for the audience. Let's do something fun, shall we? Let's rank the kids of The Sandlot. From most important to eh, they just have a couple lines. Okay, here we go:

1. Scotty Smalls - since he's our main character, he's pretty important and has a major storyline and lots of lines. He narrates the story as an adult (much like in Stand By Me!) David Mickey Evans, the director and writer of the movie does the narrating. He's the only kid where we see his home life. He gets into "the biggest pickle" he's ever been in when he loses his stepdad's baseball that was signed by Babe Ruth ("BABE RUTH!?") After they lose a ball that Benny obliterated because he hit it so hard (because he is that good at the game!), they're all bummed because they can't play anymore since they don't have a ball and it's only noon. Smalls tells them he has a ball he can get and comes back with the Babe Ruth signed ball that his stepdad (who's out of town for a few days) kept on a mantle in his office. The ball ends up going across the fence and into the property of "The Beast",  a massive dog that lives on the other side of the sandlot and anything that goes over that fence is never coming back, whether it be a ball or a human. Scotty tells his friends they have to get the ball back because it belonged to his dad and was signed "by some lady name Ruth...Baby Ruth." The other kids gasp when they learn of the value that the ball possesses. Scotty has no idea who Babe Ruth is.
C'mon, how can you not know who Babe Ruth is? I couldn't name you a modern-day baseball player, but even I know who Babe Ruth is! (And I knew who he was when I was 12 too!) When he asks who Babe Ruth is, the other kids exclaim, "What?" 
"The Sultan of Swat!"
"The King of Crash!"
"The Titan of Terror!" 
"The Colossus of Clout!" ("The Colossus of Clout!")
"Babe Ruth!"
"The. Great. Bambino!" 
Benny has to tell him, "Smalls, Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player who ever lived." When Scotty realizes just how valuable that ball is (now chewed up and ridden with dog saliva!), he (and the other kids) know they have to get the ball back. I love the line he says when he's narrating as an adult, "After we thought about it real hard, we absolutely had no idea what the hell we were going to do." They come up with a few ideas and go on about getting the ball back with a few different methods...and I don't even know where they got all the stuff they used! They try poking a long stick through the fence and rolling the ball back towards them, but The Beast snaps it in half. Every time they make a contraption and put it over or through the fence, The Beast gets to it and it comes flying over the fence, all mangled. Kinda reminded me of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park

2. Benny Rodriguez -  to keep with the Stand By Me similarities, if Scotty is Gordie, then Benny is definitely the River Phoenix of this movie. He's the heart of the team. He's unequivocally the closest friend to Scotty. When he invites Scotty to play ball with them, the other kids are not happy about this at all, but he sticks up for Scotty. He tells him it's only baseball and not to think too much and just have fun. He gives Scotty an extra glove and a hat...both of which were stashed away in the back of his pants. Maybe someone should invest in a carrier bag? After the advice Benny gives him, Scotty does catch the ball Benny bats to him and the other kids start to respect him. 

He's the only one who gets any respect from the other kids who play real Little League. They tell the others they're all a joke to the sport except for Benny. He's also the one to help Scotty out of "the biggest pickle [he's] ever been in". After many failed attempts of getting the ball back, he has a dream where Babe Ruth comes to him and tells him that "everybody has one chance to do something great" and that this is Benny's chance and he shouldn't let it go by. Inspired by his dream, the next day, Benny hops over the fence (wearing PF Flyers, shoes guarantee to make a kid run faster and jump
higher). He has a standoff with The Beast (which, by the way, is an English Mastiff) and runs and grabs the ball...which is COVERED in dog saliva. Ugh, so gross! He jumps the fence, but the dog breaks free of his chain and also jumps the fence and proceeds to chase Benny all over town. And I mean ALL OVER! They run through a movie theater (with the dog jumping through the screen), they run through a Picnic in the Park event filled with people and we get the tall-layered-cake-almost-gets-toppled-by the-kid-and-dog-but-doesn't-and-two-bakers-are-relieved-but-then-it-does-end-up-getting-toppled-when-guy-on-stilts-loses-his-balance-and-falls-on-the-table scene! They run through the pool where a little kid says, "Mommy, mommy, look a doggie! Ooh, a big doggie!" They all return back to the sandlot where Benny jumps back over the fence (and takes a pretty hard fall) and the dog tears through the fence, but it ends up falling on him. Scotty is concerned for the animal and asks the others to help him lift the fence, but Benny is the only one who does. The dog walks over to Scotty and licks his face. (Ugh...nothing worse than dog slobber!) The two boys knock on the door and it is answered by James Earl Jones who plays the dog's blind owner, Mr. Mertle. They explain the situation and he asks why they just didn't knock on the door for him to get it for them. He invites Scotty and Benny in and tells Scotty since his Babe Ruth ball is ruined, he will give him another ball in return that was signed by the entire 1927 Yankee Team. We find out that Mr. Mertle knew Babe Ruth because he was also a ballplayer back in the day before he became blind. Oh, and the dog's name? Hercules. 

3. Michael "Squints" Palledorous - he's the kid with the thick, black-framed glasses. He's called Squints because he squints when he takes off his glasses. He gets a good amount of lines and has two "front and center" story lines. He's the one who tells Scotty the story of "The Beast" when the kids have a sleepover in their tree house. He starts out by saying, "The legend of the beast goes back a
Squints and Yeah-Yeah
long started about, eh, twenty years ago." Haha, I guess when you're 12, twenty years seems like a really long time ago! I love this kid's delivery of the story. So funny! "In a few weeks, the pup grew into The Beast. And he grew BIG! And grew MEAN! And he protected the junkyard with just one thing on his mind: To kill everyone that broke in! And he did! And he liked it! A LOT!" I love when he's giving the death toll of how many people The Beast has ever killed and says, "It added up to 120....173's true!" The "FOR-EV-ER" part is great too when The Beast's owner asks the police how long he has to keep the dog chained up and that's the answer. "FOR-EV-ER!" "FOR-EV-ER!" 

Squints has a crush on Wendy Peffercorn, a lifeguard at the pool. She's obviously much older than him (and the other kids on the team) so she towers over him by two feet. It's pretty funny. She's played by Marley Shelton, who was 18 or 19 when she was in this movie. When the gang goes swimming at the pool, Squints dives into the deep end and his friends are concerned because he doesn't know how to swim. Wendy ends up saving him and while she's giving him mouth-to-mouth, all of his friends are worried for him, saying, "C'mon, buddy, pull through!" or "You can do it, Squints!" At one point, when she's looking down and listening for his heartbeat, he opens his eyes and grins at his friends and goes in for the kiss when she gives him mouth to mouth again. One of his friends says, "Ooh, he's in serious sh*t." Haha! It was so obvious he was faking it because from the time he dived off the diving board until Wendy chases him away, he was holding his glasses. He never let his grasp go on them. If he was really drowning, his grip would have loosened. 

When they're trying to get the ball back, one of the kids suggest they just knock on the door and he says they can't do it, then later when they do knock on the door and Mr. Mertle asks why they didn't do that in the first place, all the kids groan at Squints who's like, "We got the ball back, didn't we? We got the ball back! "

He has some great lines where he calls Scotty "an L-7 weanie" and after he's waiting for Benny to stop talking to Scotty and continue the ball game, he says, "It's about time, Benny, my clothes are going out of style!" I love that kid! 

4. Hamilton "Ham" Porter - he's the fat, red-headed freckle-faced kid. He gets a lot of good one-liners. He's the one who has a mouth-off with the main kid from the Little League team when they trade insults. The biggest insult he gives the kid is, "You play baseball like A GIRL!!" I should probably be offended by that, but I don't play baseball. I don't even like baseball. (But I love movies about baseball...some of them...go figure!) He has the great line, "You're killing me, Smalls!" He says this a couple times in the movie when he gets exasperated with Scotty. One memorable time is when they're having their sleepover in the tree house and he asks Scotty if he wants a s'more and Scotty says, "Some more what?" He explains to Scotty what a s'more is after he says, "You're killing me, Smalls!" He's usually the catcher when they play ball and has quippy one liners he torments the batters with so they lose their concentration. This kid has the best facial expressions. 

5. Alan "Yeah-Yeah" McClennan - he's called Yeah-Yeah because he pretty much begins every sentence with, "Yeah, yeah!" He's Squints closest friend and because Squints has a lot of screen time, Yeah-Yeah is usually with him and gets a few lines. After he and Squints get back from buying a ball at the drugstore, Yeah-Yeah tells everyone that they were late because Squints was "perving a dish", haha! 

After the Babe Ruth-signed ball is lost and they go get another ball for Benny to sign the famous player's name to use as a decoy, Yeah-Yeah says, "Yeah, yeah, that looks pretty crappy! "and Benny says, "It doesn't matter what it looks like as long as it buys us time!" 

6. Kenny DeNunez - he usually goes by his surname. He's the token black kid on the team. The actor who plays him was also in The Mighty Ducks so apparently he's a good kid to have on your sports team. He has a few lines, but the others above him have more. He's probably the second best at baseball after Benny as he and Benny were the only ones to make the sport a career for them when they grew up. (Benny went on to be in the Major Leagues and DeNunez played for awhile, then coached a Little League team his sons were on).

7. Tommy "Repeat" Timmons - this is the youngest kid on the team. They nickname him "Repeat" because he always repeats whatever his older brother says. Therefore he is more memorable than his older brother. Fun fact: the same kid was also in My Girl; he played one of the boys at the beginning that Vada shows a "dead" body to. 

8. Timmy Timmons - Tommy's older brother who Tommy parrots. His most memorable scene is when they're trying to get the ball back and one of the tactics they use is sucking it up with these vacuums (not sure where they plugged them in in a treehouse!) and they start to go haywire and all
the kids except for Timmy jump out of the tree. The vacuums explode and Timmy is covered in dust. He is coated in dust. He walks up to the kids, shakes the dust out of his hair, heaves a heavy sigh and says, "We've been going about this all wrong. I blame myself. We need total surprise."

9. Bertram Grover Weeks - this is the tall, skinny kid with the glasses. I put him last because I feel like he would be the one player you would always forget if you were trying to list all the kids from The Sandlot. He has a couple lines, but he's just there. Sorry, kid! He is the one who gives out the chewing tobacco when they're at the carnival, then they all throw up when they're on the Tilt-A-Whirl. While I remember them getting sick on the ride, I thought it was because they ate too much junk food. 

But who am I to rank The Sandlot kids? I love them all! They're all great! (Though Benny and Squints are my favorites...and Scotty too, of course...he is adorable!) The soundtrack to this film is makes me nostalgic for the '60s even though I wasn't around for them! This is the perfect quintessential movie for the '90s child.

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