Directed by William Dear
Written by Keith Mitchell & Allie Dvorin
Just a few days ago I reviewed The Sandlot 2, the disappointing follow up to The Sandlot, a film I, of course, hold very near and dear to my heart. Well, yet another direct-to-video sequel was developed and released in the form of The Sandlot: Heading Home, and like The Sandlot 2, it’s about as bad as you would expect. I know earlier in this baseball marathon I explored the Bad News Bears trilogy, which featured two poor sequels, but what separates The Sandlot sequels is the fact they are not theatrical releases, diminishing their production values. There may be some examples of good films made in such a format, but they are the exception, and neither Sandlot sequel falls under that category. Of course none of that detracts from the pure joy and brilliance of the original.
At least with The Sandlot: Heading Home there is an attempt to create a new story line and not piggyback off the same tired trope of something lost in Mr. Mertle’s backyard. But unfortunately, the production values for this release are so low it doesn’t matter. Tommy Santorelli is a perennial all-star, but his selfish personality has caused him to be a hated player, despite his one way ticket to Cooperstown. After getting hit in the head during batting practice, Tommy is sent back to when he was a new kid at the Sandlot. Forced to make friends, and relive this pivotal childhood moment, Tommy spends precious time with his mom, who later passes to cancer. But Tommy also begins to see the value in building lasting friendships instead of striving for individual successes, and finds that sometimes both can be accomplished.
The film is sickeningly sugar coated, which is accentuated by the fact that nearly every performance is over the top and cheesy. If there were ever a movie that felt like it was cheaply made, this is it, absolutely. And ultimately it’s the undoing of the whole movie. I couldn’t take it seriously at this point in my life. But lucky for me, the film is not made for a 27 year old adult. It’s meant to air on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel during the early afternoon for young boys who just got home from school. The message is a good one to communicate to the youth, and the type of camaraderie developed by Tommy and his Sandlot friends is a good example for anyone.
Bringing back fan favorites Benny Rodriguez and Squints don’t work much either, especially since Benny is played by a different actor, because for those who have built that special relationship with the original team, The Sandlot: Heading Home is dreck not really worthy of ever wasting time on, so seeing these characters I suppose is aimed at the parents familiar with the original, sharing the sequels with their children. I think it’s telling that this is the first product in the Sandlot series not headed by its creator, David M. Evans. Instead, the project is helmed by William Dear, whose name we saw at the helm of Angels in the Outfield (1994) and will see again soon with The Perfect Game. Comparing this to Angels in the Outfield would be unfair (though perhaps not unfair to compare it to its own direct-to-video sequels). Ultimately, I think the core of the film is lost without Evans, whose characters are so near and dear to his own childhood. This installment loses that charm, though certainly the terrible production values don’t give much room for charm, charisma or endearing characters to develop.