|Directed by||David Mickey Evans|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Edited by||Michael A. Stevenson|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$34.3 million|
The Sandlot (released in some countries as The Sandlot Kids) is a 1993 American coming-of-age sports comedy film co-written, directed, and narrated by David Mickey Evans. It tells the story of a group of young baseball players during the summer of 1962. It stars Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Karen Allen, Denis Leary, and James Earl Jones. The movie is set in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, CA and the filming locations were in Midvale, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, Utah. It grossed $34 million worldwide and has since become a cult film.
In the summer of 1962, brainy, reserved fifth grader Scotty Smalls moves with his mother and recent stepfather to the Los Angeles suburbs, where he has difficulty making friends. He tries to join a group of boys who play baseball daily in a local sandlot, but his inability to catch or throw the ball causes the team to laugh at him, and he runs off in embarrassment. An attempt to learn to play catch with his stepfather, Bill, results in a black eye.
Nevertheless, he is invited to join the team by their leader and best player, Benny Rodriguez, who mentors him. With Benny's help, Smalls improves his skills enough to join the team as their left-center outfielder. He befriends the rest of the team including the heavyset short-tempered catcher, Hamilton "Ham" Porter; the easygoing African American pitcher, Kenny "The Heater" DeNunez; the nerdy smartmouthed shortstop, Michael "Squints" Palladorus; the impatient 3rd baseman, Alan "Yeah-Yeah" McClenna; the rebellious 2nd baseman, Bertram Grover Weeks; the suffering 1st baseman, Timmy Timmons; and Timmy's younger brother, the annoying right-center outfielder Tommy "The Repeater" Timmons.
One day, when catcher Ham hits a home run into an adjacent backyard, the team becomes irritated, as they only have one baseball for the day. Smalls attempts to retrieve the ball but is stopped by the other boys, because of "the beast" that lives in the backyard. That night, the boys have a campout at the nearby treehouse, where Squints tells the legend of "the Beast", a large and aggressive English Mastiff that has become a neighborhood legend, for his size. Many baseballs hit into the yard over the years have all been claimed by the Beast, which is kept chained up by its owner, Mr. Mertle. It is rumored that he once ate another kid who attempted to enter the yard.
One particularly hot day, the boys visit the community pool, in lieu of baseball. Squints has a crush on lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn, and fakes drowning in order to get her to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After he awakens and kisses her, the sandlot team is banned from the pool, but Squints' reputation is boosted. On the Fourth of July the team plays a night game by the light of the fireworks, and Smalls observes that although to the rest of them baseball is just a game, it is Benny's true passion. Later, they are challenged to play against a rival Little League team whom they handily defeat. To celebrate, they visit a fair where they try chewing tobacco obtained by Bertram and ride the Trabant; the combination has disastrous results.
One day, Benny hits the team's only baseball so hard that he knocks the cover off. With Bill away on business for the week, Smalls borrows a baseball from his trophy room that is autographed by legendary player Babe Ruth. Being ignorant of baseball history, Smalls does not realize the ball's value, and hits his first home run, sending it into the Beast's yard. When the other boys learn of the autograph, they tell Smalls its value and try to come up with a way to retrieve it. First they scrap up money to buy a baseball and Benny forges Babe Ruth's signature on it, to temporarily replace the autographed ball, and keep Scotty's mother from noticing the other one is missing.
The team agrees that Mr. Mertle will not help them retrieve the ball, so they make several attempts to get the ball out of the yard using makeshift retrieval devices, but each is destroyed by the Beast. Just as all hope seems lost, Benny has a dream in which the spirit of Babe Ruth advises him to used his speed and skills to retrieve the ball himself, and that this will be the moment that makes him a legend.
Benny goes over the fence and "pickles" the Beast to retrieve the ball, but the dog breaks its chain and leaps over the fence in pursuit. It chases Benny through town, resulting in several comedic mishaps, and eventually back to the sandlot. Benny jumps back into Mr. Mertle's yard, but the Beast crashes through the fence, which falls down on top of it. Smalls and Benny lift the fence to free the dog, who shows gratitude by licking Smalls, and leading them to its stash of baseballs.
They meet Mr. Mertle, who claims he would have helped them retrieved the ball if they would've asked, much to the team's dismay. Mr. Mertle invites Smalls and Benny into his house, and he reveals himself to be a former Negro-league baseball player who played with Babe Ruth but went blind after being struck by a baseball. He kindly trades them the chewed-up ball for one autographed by all of the 1927 New York Yankees, including both Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, and asks Smalls and Benny to visit him weekly to talks more about baseball. Smalls gives this ball to Bill (although Bill is pleased and happy with getting the Murderers' Row ball, he's still a little mad at Smalls for swiping his original autographed ball and ruining it, and Smalls is slightly relieved when he's only grounded for a week, instead of the rest of his life), and their father-and-son relationship improves. The boys continue to play baseball on the sandlot, the rest of the summer, with the Beast—whose real name is Hercules—as their mascot.
Over the next few years, the sandlot kids continue to play together, but then they start to go their separate ways. Yeah-Yeah is enrolled in military school, enlists in the Army, and later develops bunjee jumping (a callback to one of their devices the team used when trying to retrieve the ball), Bertram joins the 1960's counterculture, and is never heard from again, Timmy and Tommy become an architect and contractor, and become wealthy upon inventing Mini-Malls, Squints grows up and marries Wendy, has nine children, and they take over the local drug store, Ham becomes a professional wrestler: "The Great Hambino", and DeNunez plays in the Minor Leagues, but he later becomes a business owner and coaches a Little League team. Benny's exploit with the Beast earns him the nickname "the Jet", and he goes on to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smalls becomes a sports commentator, and covers a game against the San Francisco Giants in which Benny successfully steals home. Celebrating his victory, the two exchange thumbs up. Afterwards Smalls, looks at his three baseballs on display: the Murderers' Row ball, the forged Babe Ruth signature ball, and the chewed up Babe Ruth Ball, and then at a picture of the Sandlot team from 1962.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film had an approval rating of 63% from critics based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. The site's critical consensus read, "It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure." On Metacritic, the film had a score of 55 based on 27 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, comparing the movie to a summertime version of A Christmas Story, based on the tone and narration of both films: "There was a moment in the film when Rodriguez hit a line drive directly at the pitcher's mound, and I ducked and held up my mitt, and then I realized I didn't have a mitt, and it was then I also realized how completely this movie had seduced me with its memories of what really matters when you are 12." Bob Cannon of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+, praising its simplicity and strong fundamentals.
Leonard Klady of Variety gave the film a mostly negative review. He praised the cinematography and score, but felt the baseball team did not come together, and that the film, while sincere, was a "remarkably shallow wade, rife with incident and slim on substance."
The film grossed $4,000,000 in its opening week-end and a further $32,000,000 through ticket sales. Figures for world-wide VHS and DVD sales, however, are estimated to be at $76,000,000. Since its release on both VHS and DVD, the film has become a cult favorite.
In 1998, Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox and the producers of the film for defamation. Polydoros, a childhood classmate of David Mickey Evans, the writer and director of The Sandlot, claimed that the character Michael "Squints" Palledorous was derogatory and caused him shame and humiliation. The trial court found in favor of the film-makers, and that finding was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal. After initially agreeing to review the case in 1998, the Supreme Court of California reversed its decision, dismissing the review and reinstating the Court of Appeal's opinion in favor of 20th Century Fox.
In 1993, The Sandlot first came to home video in a slipcase, along with the LaserDisc in widescreen, but later came in a clam shell case in 1994. On January 29, 2002, the DVD came in a Family Feature, in widescreen (Side B) and full screen (Side A). The 2013 repackaged DVD is only in widescreen. On March 26, 2013, the film released on Blu-ray for the first time to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The film then had a rerelease on Blu-ray and Digital HD on March 27, 2018 as part of the film's 25th anniversary. On July 2nd 2021, The Sandlot is now streamed on Disney+.
The film's original score was composed by David Newman, and was not released until 2006, when a limited edition was released as part of the Varèse Sarabande CD Club. This release paired it with selections from Newman's score for The War of the Roses A complete release devoted exclusively to the score in observance of the film's 25th anniversary by La-La Land Records in 2018.