It should be considered a bad sign when a ten minute extra of a couple of teenage actors goofing around on set is more entertaining than the movie they were making. That’s pretty much the case, though, with the terrible The Sandlot: Heading Home.
The economics of direct-to-DVD movies is a mystery to the average consumer. Most people don’t know how many units have to be sold to make something profitable or how many people are buying low-budget horror, soft porn, or martial arts epics. Without this crucial piece of information, it’s hard to understand why an only mildly successful 1993 kid’s baseball movie, The Sandlot, could generate a DVD sequel in 2005 and this one in 2007. If the quality of The Sandlot: Heading Home is any indication, it’s not because the movies are entertaining, original, or funny.
Although it has a bit of a sci-fi twist, the script follows the standard youth sports movie outline step-by-step. Major League baseball player Tommy “Santa” Santorelli (Luke Perry) is about to retire from a long successful career with a reputation as a jerky, “me-first,” superstar - think Barry Bonds without the steroids. He’s accidentally beaned on the head and comes to as his 12 year old self (Keanu Pires) on the titular sandlot diamond where he played as a (pre-selfish) youth. He meets his old gang of stereotypical buddies and grudgingly joins their rag-tag team. After initial reluctance, Tommy uses his abilities to help them win a game against the rival bad-guy team and save the sandlot from being converted into condos. He also learns powerful lessons about friendship and teamwork.
If that plot sounds familiar, it’s because it is the basic form for every sports movie involving kids ever made. Change the sport to football, soccer, bocce ball, or jai alai and the same core story has been seen time and time again. In fact the same core group is here as well; self-centered star, fat kid, brainiac kid, evil opposing coach, evil opposing coach’s son, bumbling lawman, and on and on. Even two kids who work together and have the combined nicknames of “Wok and Roll.” Every ethnic group is represented and the filmmaker’s restraint in not adding a girl player to the group is about the only restraint they used in rolling out the clichés.
The use of a clichéd plot is not necessarily a killer in these types of movies, especially in a direct-to-DVD movie where the expectations are naturally lower. But what these films must have are engaging kids who you can tell apart and who you want to root for. The Sandlot: Heading Home falls flat in this regard. The kids are just a jumbled mass and the viewer doesn’t give a crap if they get to keep their beloved sandlot or if they are poured into the cement footers of the new condominiums. Not caring about what happens is sort of the key characteristic while watching this unnecessary sequel to a mediocre movie made fourteen years ago.
Considering the quality of this movie and the obvious low-budget involved, the number of extras provided is pretty impressive. Too bad most of them are terrible; if they were actually good it might make the whole disc worth buying if you have a baseball crazy son. There isn’t a commentary, but I found that to be a blessing as it meant I didn’t have to watch the movie again. Director William Dear does have a video diary extra, but it is pretty uninformative. Dear just makes a few jokes about the kids and whatever scene is being filmed.
The top billed extra is pretty bizarre as it has no relation to the movie. Titled “For the Love of the Game: Sharing Memories with ‘Goose’ Gossage” a very young interviewer (he looks about 16) talks to the retired ballplayer. I’m not sure how impressed the target audience for this movie will be with a relief pitcher whose last dominating season was twenty years ago. At one point he says the best player he played with or against was Dick Allen, someone well known to hardcore fans but probably unknown to twelve year old boys. Gossage doesn’t say anything about the movie and it doesn’t seem like the interview was even shot with this DVD in mind.
The rest of the extras are a bit more relevant. There is a blooper reel that is mildly amusing and one deleted scene. There is also a storyboard section. Storyboards are typically boring unless the movie is a big budget spectacular, so the inclusion here is misplaced. The most revealing extra and the only one worth watching is called “Keanu & Ludwig's Double Play.” It shows the actors who played the twelve year old Tommy and the evil coach’s son as best buddies behind the scenes. In real life, both young men are very funny and have great personalities. That is totally lost in the movie and following the two actors around with a video camera would have been infinitely more entertaining than what ended up on screen.
The quality of the DVD overall is a bit weak. The project was shot on a medium that equals what you see in cheap music videos or those local commercials for carpet stores or car dealerships. This will be of interest only to zealous Little Leaguers who eat up anything to do with the National Pastime. Even then, if they exceed the age of the young Tommy and can handle a few swear words, just rent the original The Bad News Bears.