If there’s a dead body just lying around, why wouldn’t you want to find it right away?
A group of twelve-year-olds who are bored and tired with their home lives do what any twelve-year-old would do to have some fun and an adventure: Go see a dead body. Though they’re a little bit different in terms of their personalities and what each of their home lives are like, they are all pretty good friends with one another and enjoy each other’s company, which is exactly why they don’t hesitate to leave for a day or so and check out what all this dead body-business is about. While on the road, they run into the usual problems such as finding food, getting chased by dogs, getting yelled at by old heads, running from a train on the train-tracks, fighting with one another, etc. But they’re biggest problem may in fact be the local bully (Kiefer Sutherland) who already doesn’t like them and especially doesn’t want to see them at this infamous dead body. Leaving this adventure to be a race of sorts, although, to be honest, it isn’t quite fair when you have a bunch of kids walking and running on foot, against a pack of wild, angry and crazed teenagers that can actually drive. But that’s besides the point. There’s a dead body, after all.
I think I stand for just about every guy when I say that as soon as I saw this movie, my life was changed a small bit. Some others can probably say it impacted them a whole lot more than myself, but there’s something to be said about a movie that has an effect on you in general, regardless of how little or large that impact was. For me, this movie made me realize that not only are the friends around me now, the ones I should pay attention to the most, but that my friends in the future will never be as important as the ones I have in the present time. And since I was at least 13 or so when I first saw this, the emotions didn’t fully hit me until I made my way into high school.
It’s like my parents always say, “Don’t play around with guns. But if you do, make sure it’s back behind a diner.”
Things were different there – my friends, the overall atmosphere, girls, etc. Everything changed for me as soon as I got to high school, and it mostly had to do with the fact that I myself was getting older and realizing what mattered in my life, and what didn’t. And to me, what mattered was my friends. Now, of course most of my friends from grade school had all but vanished from my life come high school, but the ones that were that important to me in the first place, I stayed with and have been in touch with on a regular basis to this day, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Better yet, that’s not the point this movie is trying to make.
The point here is that while we all grow up, age, mature and do all of that lame, boring stuff that adults do, there’s still a special place in our hearts for the friends that were with us in our early years, when life and everything that came with it was a hell of a lot simpler then. That’s where I feel like Stand By Me gets being young so damn right: You don’t really think much, or at all when you’re a little kid and you’re with your friends, you’re just living, day by day, with whomever wants to spend it with you.
And honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids than Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern.
Although each of these characters have their own different personalities and eccentrics that make them who they are, they’re still so easy to relate to. Heck, you may even be able identify yourself with one of them (for me, it was always Vern because, sadly, I was “the fat kid”, although lovingly so), and that’s what this movie is all about. They’re kids and the way they interact with one another and just act in general, are exactly how you would have acted when you were their age, regardless of where you lived or what decade you were born into. All that matters is that you were a kid once, because if you were ever that, then this movie will hit home for you on more than a few occasions.
But who really deserves a bunch of kudos from me is director Rob Reiner himself who took the hard task of adapting Stephen King’s material, and not sugar-coating it a single bit. Because what works so well for this movie, as well as for these kids, is that they don’t really hold anything back: They cuss, spit, smoke, talk about boobs, give each other “two for flinching”. You know, the usual stuff that all kids do, but you hardly ever see in movies because too many people in Hollywood are afraid of offending anyone that wants to think differently about what the kids out there are doing nowadays, or have ever been like. And although I know that most of the respect for this movie should also be given to the screen-writers here who were responsible for adapting this material in the first place (Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans), I still have to tip my hat to Reiner for realizing that he was working with some troubling material and didn’t back down from showing in its most realistic, gritty-form possible.
And because that’s the idea that Reiner is sort of going for, the kids themselves hardly ever feel sensationalized as kids that are as cute as buttons. Sure, the actors playing them may have been on the shiny and nice sides, but they never feel like they were picked up out of a casting-call either and just thrown in front of us regardless of if they have any acting ability or not. Nope, these four kids can act and although some of their later-careers may not be able to prove this fact, let it be known that during the filming of this, most of these kids were actually the ages they were playing.
Sort of makes you think what you were doing with your life when you were 12 years old. For me, it was staying up all night, hopped-up on Mountain Dew and playing PS2 until I couldn’t see straight. But hey, that was just me. Some people have had more eventful childhoods, but for me, I liked it simple: Just give me a game console and plenty of soda, and I’m good to go, mom and dad. Now leave!
Anyway, like I was saying about these kid actors, they’re all pretty great and map-out each character very well. Wil Wheaton is great as our main-focus, Gordie, and seems more like a reserved, quiet kid that isn’t afraid to get a bit wild every so often, rather than just a total dweeb who needs to be outside more; Corey Feldman plays Teddy the way you’d expect a younger Corey Feldman to play a loose cannon of sorts, absolutely bonkers but fun all the same; Jerry O’Connell reminds us that, yes, at one time, before he started having all sorts of lovely and attractive sex with one Rebecca Romijn, he was a chubby little kid, and a pretty lovable one at that; and then of course, we have River Phoenix as the bad boy of the group, Chris Chambers.
I wouldn’t do it, but that’s just because I was born in the 90’s. We had a thing called “Nickelodeon”.
Every time I watch this movie, an undying sense of sadness just overcomes me. Not because I miss being 12 years old again and going out on weekend camping-trips with my buddies, but because it’s a true snapshot of the wonderful and amazing things River Phoenix was primed and ready for in his career. Sure, as he got older, the performances only got better, but seeing as he was so young here, and how natural he comes off most of the time, it makes you wonder what else could have came of him and his career. Just a shame indeed, but at least we’ll always have his body of work to go by and show the future generations to come just what kind of legend of the big screen he could have been.
And the very same could be said for this movie in general, one that will most likely live on forever. Although it does limit its scope in being a story a coming-of-ager that takes place in the late-50’s, it doesn’t really matter. This is a film for all people out there who have ever had a childhood and knew exactly what it was like to just take the days as they come, and never, not once, have to worry about what the future held out for them. Because after all, you’re just a kid, so why worry? Just have fun and be with your friends. Because one day, sometimes when you least expect it, they may not be around ever again.
So it’s up to you, to cherish the moments you have with them and never let them out of your mind, or your heart.
Consensus: Funny, nostalgic, heartfelt, and full of all sorts of life lessons without ever being preachy, Stand By Me is the rare film that only gets better with age and can be passed on from generation, to generation.
9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!
Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images