Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: As August kicks off and the warmest season begins drawing to a close, we’re looking back at some of our favorite summer-themed movies.
A good kids’ movie also appeals to the adults in the room, but a great kids’ movie does it in a way where the kids don’t even realize Mom and Dad are enjoying themselves too. For the past quarter-century, studios have aimed for this goal by greenlighting a deluge of reboots and remakes, blatant nostalgia objects designed to lure in sentimental parents hoping to bond with their kid over a childhood favorite. But every so often, an original idea makes its way to theaters and effortlessly achieves what Jem And The Holograms never did. The Sandlot is one of those movies.
That’s not to say The Sandlot, with its coming-of-age and sports-movie clichés, broke molds when it was released in April 1993. Director and co-writer David Mickey Evans went the Stand By Me route, centering the film on a young cast but setting it in an era more familiar to the parents in the audience. (Coincidentally—or not—The Sandlot hit theaters a month before the series finale of The Wonder Years.) The movie sounds downright trite when distilled down to one sentence: An uncoordinated indoor kid learns to love baseball and make friends in the summer of 1962. A more detailed description would note that the uncoordinated kid accidentally loses his stepdad’s baseball signed by Babe Ruth, and he and his new pals spend most of the film attempting to recover the ball in between first kisses and “not too much, but some” trouble.
As much as The Sandlot replays familiar tropes, the movie succeeds in part because it embraces the magical realism that remolds all our childhood memories into the lore we pass on to the next generation: the baseball the neighbor kid hit that never touched the ground; the scary house around the corner with the dog the size of a lion; hell, at one point the ghost of Babe Ruth even shows up. The Sandlot treats these surreal moments with all the seriousness of a fifth-grader—which is to say, it fully believes the myth. This all leads to a gut-punch denouement as the narrator—our central indoor kid, all grown up—recounts how his seemingly lifelong friends faded away in the summers since ’62, their images literally dissolving from the screen. It’s a reality of life that hits as a sad reminder for adult viewers, a detail that grounds the juvenile hijinks of the rest of the film.
The Sandlot made less than $33 million in theaters, ranking 50th at the box office that year. But as the film’s original young viewers have grown into nostalgic parents, the movie has become a bit of a legend itself, solidifying its cult-classic status when it sold out 25th-anniversary screenings around the country in 2018. Today, The Sandlot plays like a timeless reminder (or promise) of the friendships you’ll remember “for-e-ver.”