|Directed by||David Mickey Evans|
|Narrated 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, shy fifth-grader Scott Smalls moves to a Los Angeles suburb, where his mother encourages him to make friends in the neighborhood. He tries to join a group of boys who play baseball daily in a local sandlot, but is embarrassed by his inability to catch or throw the ball. 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 teaches him the basic skills needed to play the game. He is able to learn to quickly and earns everyone's respect.
When catcher Hamilton "Ham" Porter hits a home run into an adjacent backyard, Smalls attempts to retrieve the ball but is stopped by the other boys, who tell him of "the Beast", a large and highly territorial English Mastiff which the boys' imaginations have transformed into a kid-eating "giant gorilla-dog thing". 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.
One particularly hot day, the boys visit the community pool. Michael "Squints" Palledorous has a crush on lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn, and fakes drowning in order to get her to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, then kisses her. Wendy kicks the sandlot team out of the pool. While Squints realizes what he did was wrong and made Wendy visibly angry, he is elated when Wendy smiles and waves at him as he leaves. On Independence Day, 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, "to Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez, baseball was life." Later, they are challenged to play against a local Little League team, whom they handily defeat. To celebrate, they visit a fair, where they try chewing tobacco obtained by Bertram Grover Weeks, then ride the Trabant; the combination causes them to fall ill and vomit all over themselves and others.
One day, Benny hits the team's only baseball so hard that he knocks the cover off. With Bill away on business in Chicago, Smalls borrows from his trophy room a baseball which was 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 educate Smalls about Babe Ruth and make several attempts to get the ball out of the yard by using makeshift retrieval devices, with each one becoming more advanced than the last, but each is destroyed by the Beast. That night, Benny has a dream in which the spirit of Babe Ruth advises Benny to retrieve the ball himself. "Heroes get remembered," says the Babe, "but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you'll never go wrong."
The next day Benny, wearing a pair of new PF Flyers, 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, leaving a trail of destruction, and eventually they end up back at 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 thoroughly licking Smalls' face and leading them to its stash of baseballs. They meet Mr. Mertle, who turns out to have been a baseball player and good friend of Babe Ruth (whom he refers to by his given name, George), but who lost his sight after being struck in the head by a fast ball. He kindly trades them the chewed-up ball for one autographed by all of the 1927 New York Yankees (known as Murderers' Row), and asks them to visit every week to talk baseball with him.
Smalls gives this ball to Bill, and their father-son relationship improves, though Bill does ground Smalls for a week for taking his autographed baseball without his permission. The boys continue to play baseball on the sandlot, with the Beast – whose real name is Hercules – as their mascot.
Over the next few years, the sandlot kids go their separate ways. Only three go on to careers related to pro baseball: Kenny DeNunez, the pitcher, plays triple-A baseball for a time, but never gets to the Major Leagues, so he now owns a business and coaches a Little League team his own sons play on; Benny's exploit with the Beast earns him the nickname "the Jet", and he goes on to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers; and since Smalls becomes a sports commentator covering the Dodgers' games, they are able to maintain their friendship into adulthood. The movie then moves to the present day with the now adult Smalls doing the play-by-play for a Dodgers game where Rodriguez has come in as a pinch runner at third base in the ninth inning, and promptly steals home to win the game. The movie ends with the celebrating Rodriguez on the ballfield and Smalls in the press box giving each other the same thumbs-up sign that they had used since childhood.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 64% based on 58 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." Metacritic assigned the film had a weighted average score of 55 based on 27 critics, 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 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 was released under Fox's Family Feature banner, in widescreen (Side B) and full screen (Side A); the 2013 repackaged DVD is widescreen only. On March 26, 2013, the film was 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. The Sandlot was made available for streaming on Disney+ on its launch date of November 12, 2019, and is currently streaming as of June 17, 2022.
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.