This Sunday, April 7, marks the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Sandlot. This is a little insane, in the way that the passage of time sneaking up on you and punching you in the nose is always a little insane. I mean, it makes sense (2013 – 1993 = 20), and it feels a little silly to sit here in awe of the fact that something that came out twenty years ago is in fact twenty years old, because, well, that’s how time works. But it’s still melting my brain a little bit right now.
I think the real reason it’s throwing me for a loop is less of the “UHMAGOD YOU GUYS WE ARE SO OLD REMEMBER SLAP BRACELETS?????” thing than it is the fact that the movie still holds up incredibly well today. Some of the movies that came out in the early-90s were very, very 90s, and the other kids’ baseball movies of the era — including The Sandlot, there were a total of four released in a 15 month span — hinged on some sort of gimmick. Rookie of the Year was about a 12-year-old who crunched his shoulder all goofy-like and became awesome at throwing fastballs, Angels in the Outfield was about angels literally helping the Tony Danza-led California Angels win baseball games, and Little Big League was about a 12-year-old who inherits the Minnesota Twins and installs himself as manager (which, for the record, is exactly the type of thing some snotty, rich 12-year-old would try to do in real life). But The Sandlot — thanks in part to being set in 1962, and thus avoiding the time capsule-like horror show of awful 90s fashion — manages to avoid these traps. At its core, it’s really just a movie about being a kid in the summer.
The best example of this takes place during a 20-minute stretch in the middle of the movie, after our introduction to new kid/narrator/hideous-hat-haver Scott Smalls, and before the baseball-stealing/Erector-set-constructing/big-mean-dog-related hijinks really get underway. The four scenes sandwiched together in this window — Squints smooching Wendy Peffercorn, the Fourth of July fireworks, the name-calling showdown and baseball game with Phillips and the rich kids, and the Big Chief carnival vomit fiasco — are four of my favorite scenes in any “kids” movie, because they’re real, honest portrayals of being a kid.
Most movies in this genre talk down to children, or water-down the type of mischief kids actually get up to. In The Sandlot, on the other hand, the characters do exactly the type of stuff a group of kids that age do when they’re left with nothing but free time and active imaginations: they swear, they try chewing tobacco, they fire impressively nasty insults at each other (“You bob for apples in the toilet… and you LIKE IT”), they come up with desperate, kind of awful, plots to steal kisses from the opposite sex, and they pretend the fireworks lighting the night sky are there just for them. That’s the stuff being twelve is all about, if you’re doing it right.
Now, I’m admittedly biased on this one. I’ve seen The Sandlot well in excess of twenty times, and I’ve written thousands of words about it, and I’ll happily talk a stranger’s ear off about if you get two or three drinks in me. And yeah, part of the allure of the film for me is that I also spent the majority of summers as a kid playing baseball and being a mischievous little dickhead with a big mouth. (Although I never pretended I was drowning as part of a plot to sexually assault a lifeguard. Not that I remember, at least.) But I really feel like the film translates beyond that, and as I’ve said, I really feel like it holds up, especially compared to its counterparts. So maybe, if some of you now have your own loudmouth, trouble-making wiener kids, you might want to think about running out and picking up the 20th anniversary edition of The Sandlot for them. Or you could just get it for yourself. Or for me.
Or don’t, and be an L7 weenie, you pee-drinking crapface.