Written & Directed by David M. Evans
If you recall, The Sandlot is not only a childhood favorite of mine, but upon a rewatch of the film for this marathon, remains my all time favorite Baseball movie (yes, nostalgia plays a part in that; and no, I won’t apologize for it). You may also recall that I hold The Bad News Bears in high regard, but find it’s two sequels to be extremely juvenile and lacking in anything that resembles the reason why the original worked as well as it did. There can be a temptation to try and recreate the magic of a small film like The Sandlot or The Bad News Bears, but oftentimes these temptations do not lead to commercial or critical success. Being such a big fan of The Sandlot, I have avoided it’s two direct-to-video sequels, even though I am of the opinion that horrible sequels in no way can tarnish the magic of an original, or affect my opinion of it.
The Sandlot 2 is an obvious cash grab by the producers of the film, hoping to cash in on the nostalgia of those who remember The Sandlot so well, while also attempting to bring in a new, younger audience 10 years after the original films release. As a result, the story being told here is very similar to the original, with a few exceptions. Ten years after the original took place, nine new kids in the neighborhood hang out at the sandlot during the summer, playing baseball all day. But when a new girl (Samantha Burton) moves into the neighborhood, she and her softball friends begin to challenge the baseball boys for the field. Stuck in the middle is the younger Smalls brother (James Willson), who is more of a science nerd than baseball fan. When he accidentally launches a NASA model spaceship into the backyard of Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones), however, the group must band together to retrieve the model from the mean, evil “The Great Fear”, a descendant of “The Beast” a.k.a. Hercules.
What The Sandlot 2 represents is simply a lesser delivery of the same story we’ve seen before. It follows much the same arc, but with different characters. However, the characters aren’t all that different either. A loud mouth catcher, a nerdy Smalls kid, the star player whose quickness saves the day, a huge fearful dog who turns out to be kind, and Mr. Mertle is literally the same character. It seems a bit strange that the story of Hercules from the original film would not have filtered down to the next generation. Instead these kids recant the same fearful story from the original, with no sense that Mr. Mertle is a nice blind guy who loves baseball and “The Beast” was actually a super sweet dog.
Because the film is direct-to-video, the production values are not as high either. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two films is in the casting. The Sandlot featured some genuinely good performances from child actors. However, The Sandlot 2 is full of eye-rolling, overplayed performances from its young cast. Even the best part of the movie, the retrieval of the valuable thing from Mr. Mertle’s backyard, is lacking in creativity and excitement. Top to bottom, The Sandlot 2 is in every way the lightweight version of the original. I think what bummed me out the most about this effort at a sequel was the inability to craft anything new, treading down the same story arc as the first, instead of building upon it, creating something original in the same world.
I think what gives the film a slight pass from me, however, is the fact that I love the original story so much that seeing it rehashed, while disappointing and certainly not executed to the level of The Sandlot, it’s still a good story. And this time around they did at least include some girls in the story, and girls who kick ass at playing ball. So in some ways, I see The Sandlot 2 as the feminist response to the one line in The Sandlot that probably offensive: “You play ball like a girl.” This line even finds its way back into play here. It’s as though Evans decided to right this “wrong” by rewriting the same movie, but with a talent female player to prove to everyone that it doesn’t matter, boy or girl, we can all play ball and make friends in the summer time at the sandlot.