For the next review today of Stand By Me (1986) for the Meathead March blogathon, here’s a review by Cara of Silver Screen Serenade.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” – The Writer
Number of Times Seen – 1 (21 Feb 2015)
Brief Synopsis – “After the death of a friend, a writer recounts a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy.” (from IMDb)
My Take On It – Per usual, I’d just like to take a minute to thank Rob for another great idea here. I hadn’t realized Rob Reiner had so many awesome films in his wheelhouse! I’m really looking forward to all these reviews! But I knew right away what I was going to tackle—mostly because Table 9 Mutant was never going to leave me alone until I watched it. 😉 I’m talking, of course, about Stand by Me.
First off, let’s talk about that young cast. I, of course, recognized Corey Feldman right off the bat, and he’s pretty fantastic as Teddy. He’s the wild one of the bunch, but he’s clearly hurting from a messed up relationship with his father, and Feldman portrays that really well. In fact, father relationships (or lack thereof) are pretty important for all of these characters. Well, although we don’t hear a lot about sweet, chubby Vern’s father. Sidenote: Can you believe that kid grew up into adult Jerry O’Connell? I mean, whaaaat?
Anyway, so Feldman and O’Connell are both great, but the real stars are clearly River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton as best buds Chris and Gordie. I’ve only seen Phoenix in a couple things now (this and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), but I’m almost afraid to see him in anymore for fear of getting too attached. He was lost way, way too soon, and I can’t help wondering what could’ve been of his career. He’s wonderful as Chris, a smart kid growing up in a rough family. The odds are stacked against him, and he’s fully aware of it. Luckily, he’s got solid support from Wheaton’s Gordie. Gees what happened to Wheaton? I know he did Star Trek: The Next Generation shortly after this, but other than that his career seems pretty sporadic. Shame because he’s fantastic as troubled Gordie, a kid who recently lost his golden boy brother (played by John Cusack, of all people) and feels completely neglected by his parents. Gordie and the boys learn a lot about themselves over the course of a few days, and it’s fun and interesting to see. It’s essentially a coming-of-age story for these four boys, narrated perfectly by Richard Dreyfuss (a.k.a. The Writer).
There are a couple of random things I’d like to highlight. First of all, can I point out what an epic soundtrack this has? Not only does it set up the ‘50s atmosphere flawlessly, but there are some really catchy songs here! What can I say? I’m a sucker for the Oldies. Also, I love that we get to hear the boys singing some of their favorite tunes along with the soundtrack. Moments like that create a nice counterbalance to some of the heavier moments. But if we’re talking about the funniest moments, absolutely nothing beats Gordie’s pie-eating contest story. I really don’t want to ruin that (for all, like, three of you who haven’t already seen it), but I will say this: If you have even the slightest appreciation for immature humor, you will probably laugh at this scene. I did. No shame.
Okay, so despite all of the great things, I did find a few things to pick on, too. For me, one of those things is how recognizably…King it all is. Know what I mean? I feel bad saying that because for the most part I do like King’s stuff, but sometimes his dialogue irks me a little. It definitely got under my skin in Stand by Me. To be fair, King didn’t actually write the screenplay—that’s on Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans—but they’re clearly trying to imitate his style. Sometimes, it just feels like they’re trying too hard. Like, I don’t mind bad language at all. In fact, I use far too much of it. But these kids…ugh. They’re clearly trying so, so hard to sound like cool, tough grown-ups, but c’mon—do kids their age really talk like that? I don’t know. Maybe I just felt it was unrealistic/annoying because I grew up with a sister. Haha.
Again, just a few random things here: 1) What’s up with Kiefer Sutherland playing over-the-top villains in the ‘80s? I had no idea this was a thing! Like, he’s okay here, but I just felt his character was kind of one-note, you know? Plus the bleached hair…yikes. Kiefer, buddy, your hair was, erm, something in the ‘80s, huh? Hey speaking of the villains… 2) There is zero resolution after a big, tense standoff between the four boys and a group of teen thugs. I kept expecting the Writer to address that, but I don’t believe he ever does. It’s a little annoying. 3) Why is this film called “Stand by Me?” One of my biggest pet peeves is when a movie title seems kind of random. Here, it’s as if they put Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” at the end of the movie and were like, “Huh. You know, that would be a pretty good movie title, too,” and so it stuck. A little weak, no?
Bottom Line – Overall, I thought Stand by Me was great. Of the Reiner-directed films I’ve seen (which is, sadly, only The Princess Bride, Misery, and maybe half of The Bucket List), it’s not my favorite, but it’s easy to see why it’s regarded as such a classic. Great performances from four young actors—especially Wheaton and Phoenix—and an engaging story to boot. Nice mix of humor and drama. As Rob would say, recommended! 🙂
My Rating – Globe Worthy