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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/5/02

The Sandlot
1993 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Sandlot

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B/C

Specs and Features

101 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, "behind-the-scenes" featurette, theatrical trailer, TV spots, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0) subtitles: English and Spanish, Close Captioned

"You're killing me, Smalls!"

It's 1962, and Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is the new kid in town. He's shy, slightly awkward and doesn't find it easy to fit in with the neighborhood kids. His mother (Karen Allen) constantly urges him to go outside and make friends, but it's not as easy as she thinks it is. More than anything else, Scotty wants to play baseball with the other kids. But that's not really an easy task when you don't know how to catch a ball. Scotty even tries to get his stepfather (Denis Leary) to teach him, but he's too occupied with his work. All that changes when Benjamin Rodriguez (Mike Vitar), the best ball player in town, invites him to be the ninth player on their team. Benjamin shows Smalls (as he comes to be called) the ropes and teaches him how to catch. Pretty soon Scotty's days of sitting at home by himself are over. And so starts the best summer of his life.

In many ways, The Sandlot is a standard coming-of-age, kid film. It's got some of the genre clichés: the obligatory chubby kid (Patrick Renna), reminiscent adult voiceover by the main character, a few body function jokes and a big heap of Rockwellian small town goodness. But for all of its formulaic conventions, The Sandlot throws in lots of other good stuff to counter that. I like the way everything is exaggerated and becomes something larger than life. That's the way I recall seeing things as a boy. There's a dog that rules over the land of lost baseballs (i.e. your neighbor's backyard), and he's a huge monster of cartoon proportions - the sort of creature that only exists in tales told in sleepovers and backyard camp-outs. And lest you forget the dual excitement and terror of your first kiss, along comes Wendy Peppercorn (Marley Shelton) - the kind of girl with near-adult proportions that drives all young boys crazy. These are the things that make The Sandlot worth watching. This is a genuinely fun movie that doesn't have a mean bone in its body.

This is one of the first entries in Fox's new Family Feature line of DVD's, and it doesn't disappoint in the audio/video department. Fox chose to include both the original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio (16x9 enhanced) and a "family friendly" 1.33:1 pan & scan version. Since it's not normal Fox practice to include both formats on the same disc, the assumption is that the pan & scan job is included here for the kids. Maybe I haven't watched enough films with kids, but I don't understand the notion (nor have I ever seen confirmation) that pan & scan is the preferred method of home viewing for children. It just doesn't make sense to me. Nonetheless, both transfers here look very good. The widescreen version is particularly nice, and the source material is completely free of dust, nicks and other types of age-related blemishes. There are occasional glimpses of edge enhancement, but none are so obvious as to become a constant disruption. Whatever your viewing preference, either one should do you fine. But really… go for the widescreen.

On the audio side of things, you'll find both a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix as well as a full-blown 5.1 treatment. Neither one will knock you off of the couch, but they get the job done. The Sandlot doesn't have a wide sound field, so you're not going to notice a lot of rear channel separation effects. The rear channels are reserved mostly for the musical score and sporadic, ambient sounds. Most of the action is spread across the front end of the mix, with the dialogue squarely rooted in the center speaker. There are a few instances of split channel effects in the front, though nothing special. Bass response is adequate, if subdued. Even the movie's one big explosion (yeah, there's one of those thrown in for good measure!) doesn't shake the house too much.

Don't count on anything too special for the extras. The "behind-the-scenes" featurette is 100% promotional filler. It's only a few minutes in length, and most of that is footage from the film. You'll get a few snippets of interviews from the cast, with the usual round of positive comments ("I'm glad to be a part of this..."), but nothing at all substantial. View it once and forget about it. The theatrical trailer is here as are (surprise!) seven television commercials. If you've seen one, you've seen them all. What? You were expecting popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks?

I get a big kick out of The Sandlot. It's one of those movies that is, as they love to say, fun for the entire family. Adults will no doubt enjoy its nostalgic appeal, and it's got lots of kid-friendly humor that thankfully doesn't condescend. If you loved baseball as a kid, you'll get all the jokes here. The DVD is minor league in the feature department, but its price is lowered to reflect their absence. Baseball season is still a ways off, but get a leg up on things and give The Sandlot a spin!

Dan Kelly
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