The leech scene. That’s what piqued my interest and got me to watch Stand by Me last week, along with the fact that Ted threatened me with fire when he found out I had never seen it in its entirety. I must have seen part of the movie on TV as a child because that leech scene has scarred me for life and I’m not even a dude, so I decided I needed to give the entire movie a chance.
Within the first ten minutes, I knew how to sum up Stand by Me. It’s an R-rated Sandlot. It wouldn’t be fair to write off Stand by Me as a copycat, since it was released in 1986, seven years before the classic children’s baseball movie ever hit theaters. So actually, The Sandlot is the dirty rotten copycat.
The two movies begin almost identically, with the adult male narrator going back in time to tell the story of an adventurous summer involving his mischievous prepubescent friends, taking viewers back to the summer of 1959 in Stand by Me and 1962 in The Sandlot. From there we meet a group of boys all hanging out in a tree house, with the characters in Stand by Me cussing and smoking cigarettes.
Teddy Duchamp, (who looks like a young Charlie Sheen, by the way) is known as the eccentric one of the group and is comparable to Squints from The Sandlot. Maybe it’s the thick-rimmed glasses. But it probably has more to do with the suicide attempts both make. However, Teddy’s act of jumping in front of the train probably has more to do with his relationship with his mentally unstable father, while Squints’ attempt to drown was only to get the attention of the hot lifeguard, thus proving my point that Stand by Me is a much darker version of The Sandlot.
Teddy isn’t the only character that The Sandlot rips off. Vern Tessio (played by Jerry O’Connell – puberty is a fantastic thing, folks) is the “fat kid” and comic of the group, which The Sandlot mirrored with the creation of Hamilton “Ham” Porter. Then there are the heroes and leaders of the gang, Chris Chambers (RIP River Phoenix, you beautiful angel) and Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez (who is also a beautiful angel), and the quiet narrators, Gordie Lachance and Scotty Smalls, who both seem to have a hard time living up to the expectations of their father figures.
The Sandlot may be one of the best PG movies of all time. It was that movie that inspired this girly girl to buy her first pair of Converse and start wearing baseball tees in elementary school because I viewed Benny as a style icon. However, now that I am older and oh-so-wiser, I see the truth. It straight up ripped off Stand by Me. The most important piece of evidence? Those damn dogs.
In Stand by Me, the boys are killing time in the junkyard and Chopper ends up chasing Gordie over the fence. Gordie literally thinks that Chopper is going to, well, chop his balls off – a little more graphic than “The Beast” who claims the lost baseballs in The Sandlot. But seriously, the writers for The Sandlot couldn’t come up with any other storyline? Maybe a rabid raccoon on the other side of the fence? Or maybe a rabid Stephen Bannon? I’m honestly a little disappointed in the lack of creativity here.
The only real difference between the two films is that Stand by Me features a dead guy and a creepy young Kiefer Sutherland who rocked Justin Bieber’s haircut.
Of course, both films wrap up with a narrator recapping the last 30 years and telling where the boys end up. Again, Stand by Me is dark, with the boys ending up either driving a forklift, going to prison or becoming a lawyer and getting stabbed to death, contrasting with the happy ending of The Sandlot where they end up as a MLB player and a sports writer.
My final thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed Stand by Me and am likely to watch it again, even if it did inspire and ruin one of my favorite childhood films. It will also prevent me from swimming in a watering hole for the rest of my life.
Gordie: Do you think I’m weird?
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody’s weird.
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone? – Gordie