>>> Casual Misanthropy
By staff writer JD Rebello
September 18, 2005

I was wandering through Best Buy the other day looking for the new Kanye West CD (actually, I wasn’t…oh well, I guess JD Rebello doesn’t care about black people) when I passed the DVD section, in particular those 2-for-$20 packs they sell. Yeah, it seems like a deal. But it’s not. Basically, the way it works is they give you one great movie and one steaming pile of horseshit. The mentality behind this is that chances are the idiot customer has seen the great one, but is willing to take a chance on the steaming pile of horseshit, because at that price, what have you got to lose?

Anyway, I noticed that there is in fact a 2-pack consisting of two sports classics: Sandlot and Rookie of the Year. Now clearly, neither one, both Oscar-worthy could be deemed horseshit, but which one is better?

And that, my readers, brings us to today’s column. (Hey, at least I’m not mocking the victims of natural disasters. Consider this progress.)

Let’s break this puppy down!

Sandlot had the dog. First off, a dog can never be a villain under my rule that dogs are adorable and cuddly and cute and
therefore can never be a bad guy, not even in Cujo.”

Stars: Scotty Smalls versus Henry Rowengartner. No contest, really. Henry Rowengartner was hilarious, carried entire scenes by himself (like the classic sequence where he’s on base and mocking the pitcher, to be copied by every kid who played Little League in 1994), and was (and this is the key for any child actor) not annoying. As for Scotty, let’s face it, any kid that dorky (read: plays with Erector sets) and that out of the loop (read: plays baseball with a Ruth-autographed baseball) deserves what he gets. And let’s not even get into the sexual tension between him and Bennie. BIG EDGE: Rookie of the Year.

Supporting Cast: Sandlot in a walk. Rookie had Henry’s two relatively non-descript, though occasionally funny buddies, Henry’s mom, Chet Steadman, and Daniel Stern turning in the most irritating performance ever by Daniel Stern (and that’s speaking boatloads). Meanwhile, Sandlot had Bennie the Jet (who later played Luis Mendoza in D2: The Mighty Ducks, what a resume!) Timmy and Tommy, the fat catcher who later became the fat goalie in The Big Green (and I believe was part of the old McDonald’s gang commercial), the black kid, the fast-talking Italian, and Squints. Simply put, all by himself, Squints wins this contest. Flawless acting, utterly hysterical comic timing and delivery, and carries the funniest scene possibly ever in movie history (more on that a little later). EDGE: Sandlot.

Baseball Scenes: Well, it’s ROTY, but that’s really not fair. Rookie has Bonilla, Sanders, and Bonds (in a Pirates uni) striking out, the latter of which is strangely cathartic to watch. Sandlot is essentially a series of pick-up games. The one big game they do play has no real tension whatsoever, not like the playoff game against the Mets that ends Rookie, one of the funniest and exciting big games in sports movie history, even if my roommate Mark complains Henry should have been charged with a balk for being on the rubber without the ball during the hidden ball trick scene. EDGE: Rookie of the Year.

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Best Scene: With Rookie, I’m going with the game against the Dodgers, when Henry found out he had to bat, kind of odd for a National League reliever. Why not just pinch hit? Off topic, this raises an interesting question, what exactly was Henry’s role as a pitcher? We know he wasn’t a starter, because he kept coming in after Steadman. He was a closer in several games (he collects two saves in two games, which is more than Keith Foulke can claim), inexplicably pitched long relief in the playoff even after his arm went back to normal. How bad was the Cubs’ bullpen in that movie anyway, if a 12-year-old kid with a dead arm is still allowed to pitch three innings in a deciding playoff game? Did the Cubs have any other pitchers besides a washed-up Gary Busey and a kid? Then again, this is a movie where a 12-year-old breaks his arm, throws 100 miles per hour during the healing process, and has no significant injury afterwards. Oh yeah, and he throws a ball from the center field grandstands of Wrigley to home plate at full speed. So what say we just forego logic? Anyway, the Henry at the bat scene was funny from start to finish; I remember my auntie (who took me to see the movie when I was 11) still laughing from the scene about ten minutes later.

With all that said, the edge goes to the Sandlot, and Squints pretending to drown so he lock lips with the sexy lifeguard. That scene is utterly HILARIOUS. I bet you’re laughing now just thinking about it. For those who haven’t seen it, allow me to ruin it, and for those who have, take a sip of Capri Sun (if you can get the fucking straw in) and take a trip down memory lane. Squints, the little nerdy kid on the team who inexplicably can hit for power, is obsessed with Wendy, the scorching hot lifeguard at the community pool. One day he walks off a diving board and sinks to the bottom. The lifeguard comes in, gives him CPR, in the middle of which, Squints gives a look to his buddies (I can’t fully describe the look here, because all the words in the world can’t do it justice), and then gives her some tongue as “This Magic Moment” blares in the background. Brilliant, brilliant scene, and I even liked Wendy’s little wave after the fact, which was oddly sweet. Other than Guy and Connie in the Mighty Ducks, Squints and Wendy was probably the sweetest movie romance I’ve ever seen. And yes, I’m 22-years-old and have a full time job. EDGE: Sandlot.

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Worst Scene: In the Sandlot, I’m going with Scotty asking Denis Leary (who plays his step-dad) to play catch. Grating and cloying, I just hate this scene. Even worse, it has nothing to do with the plot, other than to give Scotty a black eye (which I would have taken care of). It’s almost like the director sat around during editing and said, “Remember that scene from ‘Field of Dreams’ that makes grown men cry? Let’s throw that in here, but make it really cheesy.”

With Rookie, I’m going with any scene between Mary (Henry’s mom) and old fart pitcher Chet Steadman (played by the immortal Gary Busey). Listen, nobody, I repeat, NOBODY wants to see an adult romance in the middle of a kid’s sports movie. It’s worse than Gordon Bombay and Ms. Conway in the Mighty Ducks. Makes me want to puke. EDGE: Tied.

Villain: Sandlot had the dog, and I guess, the kids on the Little League team. First off, a dog can never be a villain under my rule that dogs are adorable and cuddly and cute and therefore can never be a bad guy, not even in Cujo. So let’s go straight to Rookie and Jack (Mary’s boyfriend). Great villain, tries to send Henry to the Yankees. God, I hated him for that. BIG EDGE: ROOKIE.

Ending: Both endings are kind of crummy. Sandlot has grown-up Scotty doing play-by-play for the Dodgers, which now feature Bennie “the jet” Rodriguez stealing home, and yes, the bizarre sexual tension is still there. I bet Scotty is the catcher in that relationship, just because Bennie has the “I’m a big man, I drive a pick-up and know about tools” moustache going. (And people wonder why I don’t have a girlfriend.) As for Rookie, Henry goes back to his Little League team, coached by his mom and Chet. Oh, and he has a World Series ring, which I’m sure causes every real-life Cubs fan to die a little inside whenever they see it. EDGE: Tied.

Originality and Overall Significance: Rookie was a great kids-playing grown up sports comedy, that even inspired (cough ripoff cough) Little Big League, among others. It was truly hysterical pretty much all the way through, and gave us Thomas Ian Nicholas, who went from this movie to taking Tara Reid’s virginity in seven years. Not too bad. Still, as much as I loved Rookie, the Sandlot just raised the bar a little higher. It could never be duplicated, and it makes a concerned attempt to be a legitimate baseball movie. By the way, I’m aware of the straight-to-video sequel, just like I’m “aware” there was a series finale to Seinfeld, if you catch my drift.

OVERALL PICK: Sandlot.

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