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The Sandlot

Hollywood has come up with more powerful movies about coming of age during the golden age of rock 'n' roll (Stand By Me) and more memorable kids' baseball movies (The Bad News Bears), but when it comes to combining the two genres, The Sandlot is in a league of its own. The story of how new kid Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) discovers baseball — and a team of friends — one magic summer is charming and fun. Sure, Scotty's mom (Karen Allen) and stepdad (Denis Leary) are little more than animated cardboard cut-outs, but that's because they belong in the world of the grown-ups; this movie is all about being a kid. And, if you're to believe director/co-writer David Mickey Evans, it's about being a kid in the best possible time and place: California in the summertime in the early '60s, when you could run off to play ball or swim all day with a quick "bye, Mom!" and your biggest worry was what to do when your only baseball got grabbed by The Beast. That's the pickle Scotty and his new pals find themselves in when Scotty knocks his stepdad's ball over the fence into the mysterious junkyard, which (local lore claims) is guarded by a gigantic killer dog. Of course, this isn't just any ball — this particular bit of leather and string has been signed by Babe Ruth (you know, the Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash, the Great Bambino). The lengths the guys go to to retrieve this prize yield some of the movie's funniest scenes, as well as an outcome they never see coming. They're an engaging, well-cast bunch; besides Scotty and Benny, stand-outs include Patrick Renna's loudmouthed Ham, Chauncey Leopardi's daring Squints (who one-ups the other guys when he steals a kiss from comely lifeguard Marley Shelton), and Marty York's eager Yeah-Yeah. You get the feeling the boys had a great time making this movie, playing baseball and hanging out together all summer; their sense of camaraderie and fun carries over into the finished product, turning The Sandlot into one of the last decade's most winning family movies. Fox's DVD, if not a home-run, is at least a double; the two-sided disc offers both a sharp anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and a pan-and-scan version. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio does full justice to the '60s soundtrack, while other options include English 2.0, French 2.0, and English and Spanish subtitles. A six-minute "making-of" featurette, seven TV spots, and the trailer fill out the extras list. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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