A childhood reminiscence film in the manner of Stand by Me but lacking its in-depth characterizations, heart, and compelling narrative, David Mickey Evans’ The Sandlot is pleasant but unexceptional. While the film offers some laughs and has a tender spirit, it verges on the ridiculous the longer it runs and lacks that pathos which is so important for this kind of nostalgic movie.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDAmray with two spindles
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 03/26/2013
When he moves to a new town two weeks before the end of fifth grade, Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) starts anew with a couple of strikes against him: his step dad (Denis Leary) is rather indifferent to his situation especially in terms of his wanting to play baseball with the local kids but not being schooled in throwing or catching. For that, Scotty is grateful to the one neighborhood kid who takes pity on his plight, the gang’s ringleader Benny (Mike Vitar). Throughout the summer, the boys take part in several adventures including invading the local pool, attending the summer carnival, and playing lots and lots of baseball which leads them to the biggest event of the season: retrieving a lost collector’s item baseball from the yard of the evil Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones) whose monster dog is mighty fond of the horsehide orbs.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The script by director David Mickey Evans and Robert Gunter revolves around the “pickles” Scotty constantly finds himself in during this memorable summer in 1962. While it’s hard to imagine that a kid who wants to play baseball then wouldn’t be familiar with the name of Babe Ruth (or that he wouldn’t have asked about him around the dinner table at least once after his friends mentioned him), the various pickles that the boys must endure are relatively tame: the geeky Squints (Chauncey Leopardi) unfolding his master plan to make out with the curvaceous lifeguard at the pool, the stomach-churning carnival ride after the boys have had their first taste of chewing tobacco (perhaps the best directed sequence in the movie), and the overlong and increasingly ridiculous pièce de résistance: the rescue of the coveted Babe Ruth-signed baseball from The Beast’s yard (including some Rube Goldberg contraptions which are amusing and a lengthy chase through town that isn’t). The gang’s tree house and carefree adventures have a sweet nostalgic lure, but the movie is ever-so-slight without any big revelatory moments or soul-searching turning points that might have given it some added stature as a memorable film rather than just as a pleasantly mild little movie about childhood.
Four of the children do well enough to make their characters stand out from the (admittedly crowded) pack: Tom Guiry as Scotty, Patrick Renna as the freckle-faced "Ham," Chauncey Leopardi as Squints, and particularly Mike Vitar as the natural leader Benny. Without making him a tortured soul or someone hiding tenderness under a gruff exterior, Vitar simply stands out with naturalness and unquestionable screen charisma. None of the adults get more than a moment or two to act since the kids do all of the heavy lifting in the film. Thus, talented players like Karen Allen (as Scotty’s mother), Denis Leary, and James Earl Jones are relatively wasted with each of them appearing in only one or two scenes.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color and contrast have been dialed in perfectly resulting in good saturation levels without any fear of blooming and accurate and appealing skin tones. Sharpness is usually well delivered, but there are a few odd moments when it appears focus was dialed in a little sloppily. Black levels are just fine. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The disc offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround English audio tracks. There doesn’t appear to be much difference between the two though the lossless track may have a smidgen of better fidelity with David Newman’s music which is the transfer’s sole occupant of the rear channels. The majority of the film is frontcentric with a decent spread of sound effects and music across the fronts (including using song standards like “Tequila” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as counterpoint to the boys’ shenanigans). Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
EPK Featurette (5:51, SD): basically tells the entire story of the film including all of the major high points of the movie.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:31, SD).
TV Spots (3:44, SD): seven of them which can be viewed individually or in a “play all” choice.
DVD: a double-sided DVD containing widescreen and full screen versions of the film.
Trading Cards: a pack of ten The Sandlot trading cards with pictures of the main characters from the film in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary.
The Sandlot is a mildly entertaining family comedy about youthful hijinks that’s mostly sweet and unpretentious. A very good video and audio transfer will certainly please fans of this modestly unassuming little movie.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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