It grossed $33 million worldwide and has become a cult film.
In the San Fernando Valley during the summer of 1962, Scotty Smalls is the new boy in the neighborhood, seeking desperately to fit in. He would be welcomed on the local sandlot baseball team that practices every day, which only has eight players. Smalls however, could not play baseball; on his first visit to the sandlot he finds himself in the outfield with a fly ball descending toward him which bounces off his glove, causing the other boys except Benny "the Jet" Rodriguez, the team's leader, to burst out laughing. Smalls, humiliated, leaves.
Smalls asks his stepfather to teach him to play, and while his stepdad agrees, Scott could not successfully catch or throw the ball. Benny soon teaches him what he needs to know, and with Benny's support, he gets a place on the team.
Meanwhile, behind a wall at the end of the sandlot is a backyard inhabited by "the Beast", an English Mastiff so large and savage, that it has become a neighborhood legend. One day, the boys' last ball lands in the Beast's backyard. Smalls attempts to retrieve it, but the others, knowing about the Beast, stop him. That evening, they tell him all about the Beast, and that his owner, Mr. Mertle, got him when he was just a puppy when thieves were plaguing his junkyard, Mertle's Acres. After a couple of weeks, the puppy became the Beast; he grew enormous and aggressive, killing and devouring the thieves, bones and all. Eventually, Squints' grandfather, who was the police chief at the time, had Mr. Mertle chain up the Beast in the backyard and keep him under his house forever. Smalls also learns that many baseballs ended up in the backyard, and then they just disappear.
The next day, at a local swimming pool, Squints pretends to drown so that he can kiss the lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn, whom he has a crush on. She does not take too kindly to it, and they are banned from the pool. Nonetheless, she realizes that Squints has feelings for her.
One day, Benny busts the guts out of their baseball and Smalls borrows his stepfather's ball. After that ball also ends up with the Beast, Smalls discovers the ball was special; it was signed by Babe Ruth. Smalls' stepfather has gone to Chicago for a week-long business trip, putting Smalls and the others on a race against time to recover the ball before he returns. They make many attempts to retrieve the ball, but the Beast thwarts each attempt. One night, Benny has a dream in which Babe Ruth gives him advice, and Benny explains to him about the Beast, saying that he ate one kid who hopped the fence and went into Mr. Mertle's backyard.
The next day, Benny puts on PF Flyers, shoes guaranteed to make a kid run faster and jump higher, and goes into Mr. Mertle's backyard, despite protests from his team. Benny retrieves the ball, but the Beast breaks his chain and escapes, chasing Benny through the streets, a theater, a picnic, the local swimming pool, and eventually back to the sandlot. Mr. Mertle's fence falls on top of the Beast, but Smalls and Benny manage to get the fence off him, and he shows the kids that he's been keeping all the baseballs they hit into the backyard in a small hole. Smalls and Benny meet Mr. Mertle, who reveals that the Beast's name is Hercules, and that he knew Babe Ruth, because he was also a baseball player, but went blind after getting hit by a baseball. Mr. Mertle trades the destroyed Babe Ruth-autographed baseball for a baseball signed by all of the 1927 New York Yankees, which Smalls gives to his stepfather as a gift to make up for the other ball.
The sandlot boys enjoy the rest of the summer and the next few years, with the Beast as their mascot. Over the next three decades, the boys grow up and go into different careers. Benny and Smalls remain close; Benny becomes a famous MLB player while Smalls becomes a sportscaster.Tom Guiry as Scotty Smalls
Mike Vitar as Benjamin "Benny" Franklin Rodriguez
Patrick Renna as Hamilton "Ham" Porter
Chauncey Leopardi as Michael "Squints" Palledorous
Marty York as Alan "Yeah-Yeah" McClennan
Brandon Quintin Adams as Kenny DeNunez
Grant Gelt as Bertram Weeks
Victor Di Mattia as Timmy Timmons
Shane Obedzinski as Tommy Timmons
Karen Allen as Mrs. Smalls
Denis Leary as Bill
James Earl Jones as Mr. Mertle
Marley Shelton as Wendy Peffercorn
Art LaFleur as The Babe
The Sandlot has received mixed to positive reviews from critics. The film currently holds a 58% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 45 reviews. The site's consensus says "It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure." 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. He said of one scene, "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 "remarkably shallow wade, rife with incident and slim on substance."
The film grossed $4 million in its opening weekend and a further $32 million through ticket sales. Figures for worldwide VHS and DVD sales are estimated to be at $76 million. 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 author 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 filmmakers, 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 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.The Sandlot 2 (2005) – A direct-to-video sequel in which a new Sandlot gang is featured. The only returning cast member is James Earl Jones in his role of Mr. Mertle.
The Sandlot: Heading Home (2007) – Another direct-to-video sequel starring Luke Perry as Tommy "Santa" Santorelli who gets knocked back to 1976 from 2005 and relives his childhood. Chauncey Leopardi reprises his role as Squints.
The film's original score was composed by David Newman, and wasn't released until 2006, when a limited edition was released as part of the Varèse Sarabande CD Club.
Songs in order of appearance:
- "Finger Poppin' Time" – Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
- "Smokie Part II" – Bill Black's Combo
- "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" – The Tokens
- "There Goes My Baby" – The Drifters
- "This Magic Moment" – The Drifters
- "America The Beautiful" – Ray Charles
- "Green Onions" – Booker T & The MG's
- "Tequila" – The Champs
- "Wipe Out" – The Surfaris