This movie isn’t so much about baseball as it is nostalgia. It was released in 1993, around the time when a lot of people who were teens in the early sixties were now in their 50s or 60s. And even if they didn’t play baseball, this movie hearkened back memories of baseball they probably just invented on the spot.
“Hey dad, remember when you and mom came out to my Little League games every Saturday? I just watched The Sandlot, it reminded me of those good ole days”
“Son, you never played Little League, you played Hockey and you were good, you were on the junior Olympics team! How could you forget that?”
“(not listening) Man, playing baseball was the best.”
More than that, this movie, unintentionally, has become a big piece of 1990s nostalgia. The eras were similar in the sense that not too much was going on politically, despite some minor foreign quibbles (Vietnam was just at its early phase back then.) So things were pretty mellow. But more than that, this movie feels like it could take place in the 1990s but not the early 2000s because that was the last decade where cell phones were not prevalent everywhere. Smalls’ mom isn’t calling him on his NOKIA to come home and help out with dinner, and Benny isn’t texting Squints to tell him to stop creeping out Wendy Peffercorn. The Sandlot reminds us of the 1990s because its the last true era where interconnected communication wasn’t a thing yet, where you would just wantder to an open dirt lot, not knowing if your friends were there, but hoping that they would.
It’s a charming little story and accomplishes its required coming-of-ageness in good fashion. While Smalls or Benny don’t show an active interest in girls in the film, we watch them develop and find power in the beauty of true, childhood friendship, the kind Stephen King would go gaga over. But The Sandlot does feel a bit outdated in regards to the relationship between Squints and Wendy Peffercorn. It’d be very hard to make this movie today without that scene being criticized for Squints sexually assaulting Wendy. Even watching it now, it has this weird male-dominant vibe to it, “she didn’t like it then, but then she learned her lesson and now we have nine kids.” Yeah, totally appropriate.
You never watch The Sandlot and wonder if its good, you just rely on previous experience of watching it and those memories to create that opinion for you. It’s peculiar, that you can never have a true, honest opinion about The Sandlot or other coming-of-age movies of decades past, because you’ve grown so fond of them through repeated viewing. I still like the movie now, but if it were to come out today, with me never having seen it before, I’d probably think differently.