aka The Sandlot 3
Director – William Dear, Screenplay – Allie Devorin & Keith Mitchell, Producer – Jon Kuyper, Photography – Pascal Provost, Music – Kendall Marsh, Visual Effects Supervisor – Bruce Woloshyn, Special Effects Supervisor – Darren Marcoux, Production Design – Eric Norlin. Production Company – Twentieth Century Fox
Keanu Pires (Young Tommy Santorelli), Danny Nucci (Benny Rodriguez), Luke Perry (Tommy ‘Santa’ Santorelli), Paul Jarrett (Earl Needman), Alexander Ludwig (A.J. Needman), Chauncy Leopardi (Squints Polledorous), Cainan Wiebe (Ryan), Brian Olds (Two Ton), Sarah Deakins (Sara Santorelli), Meschach Peters (Q), Cole Hippell (D.P.), Kai James (Timber), Ryan Drescher (Wings), Samuel Patrick Chu (Wok), Renzo Carbonell (Roll), Christopher Gauthier (Officer Pork Chop), Leila Johnson (Judy Santorelli)
Tommy Santorelli is one of the top baseball players in the world with the L.A. Dodgers. However, during a practice session, he is hit on the head with a ball. He wakes up to find himself as his twelve year-old self back in 1976 playing ball with the other kids on the neighbourhood sandlot. At first, Tommy has difficulty understanding where he is, while everyone else is confused by his future references and expressions. Tommy soon demonstrates his star striking power and is able to coach the other kids to become a worthwhile Little League team. They then learn that the sandlot is about to be bought out by ruthless developer Earl Needman who wants to turn it into condos. The kids challenge Needman to settle the fate of the sandlot over a baseball game up against the team captained by his son. However, in following the events that he knows leads to his future destiny, this requires Tommy to abandon his friends and accept Needman’s offer to join his team.
The Sandlot (1993) was a generally well-regarded film about the misadventures of a group of kids that played baseball together on a sandlot. This was spun off in a video-released sequel The Sandlot 2 (2005), featuring the adventures of a different group of kids on the same sandlot. The Sandlot: Heading Home was a third film in the series, also featuring a different group of kids. Heading Home maintains some connection to the first film in featuring Chauncy Leopardi reprising a grown-up version of the kid he played there, while bringing back the character of Benny Rodriguez but played by a different actor. Unlike the other two films, The Sandlot: Heading Home is the only one of the series to step over into fantasy.
In coming from a part of the world where baseball is not the national sport or that widely played, I find it hard to get into this type of American film that regards baseball in a sentimental light. The film enshrines the game in this autumny wistfulness usually reserved for stained glass windows or nostalgic/romantic movies – indeed, director William Dear also made Angels in the Outfield (1994), which had angels coming down to aid an ailing baseball team, and a further baseball film with The Perfect Game (2009). Within this, the film sets up cliche divides – Tommy is the baseball star who plays for mercenary and ego-driven reasons and is contrasted with those who play “for the love of the game”, while the dramatic hinge of the film centres around the big decision he must make whether to stand up for his destiny or do the right thing and not abandon his friends.
The film tells its story passably well within these predictable and banal confines. It is less successful when it tries to do the childhood hijinks thing that were a highlight of the other films – there is an excruciating sequence where the kids try to sneak into a movie theatre past the fat comic relief deputy (Christopher Gauthier) who is taking a dump in one of the stalls, followed by their being pursued around the theatre by management. There is also a lame haunted house scene where the kids sneak into a house – they scaring themselves every turn they make, and then encountering various quasi-ghostly baseball paraphernalia – an automated ball-serving machine firing at them, a mitt on a spring punching out at someone, a dummy in catcher’s gear falling down, an automated machine whacking them in the face with mitts, and a giant ball rolling down the stairs a la Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
The kids work together as a worthwhile ensemble cast. Keanu Pires, the kid playing the young Tommy, has a strong and nicely authoritative presence. The only major name in the cast is Luke Perry of Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000) fame as the adult Tommy, but he is only there at the beginning and end. Also good is a brief cameo from Alexander Ludwig – later of films like The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (2007) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) – as the villain’s bullying son.
Director William Dear has had a strong genre association, having made the time-travel film Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982), the cute Bigfoot film Harry and the Hendersons/Bigfoot and the Hendersons (1987), the not-very-funny James Bond spoof If Looks Could Kill/Teen Agent (1991), the remake of Angels in the Outfield (1994), the children’s tv movie Balloon Farm (1999), the tv movie Santa Who (2006) and the horror film Simon Says (2006).