The line between sappy and sweet is a razor-thin one. We’ve all been held hostage by coming-of-age stories that shamelessly cudgel us into sniffling submission. And while they might succeed in making us reach for the Kleenex, we rarely feel good about it afterward. Then there’s a movie like Stand by Me (1986, R, 1 hr., 28 mins.), which gets your tear ducts working honestly. Based on a Stephen King novella, the film tells the sepia-tinted story of four childhood pals destined to go their separate ways one day, but who, for now, in the summer of 1959, are bound together for what feels like an eternity of campfire tales, pinkie swears, and debates about whether Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman. When the pudgy scaredy-cat Vern (played by an unrecognizable preteen Jerry O’Connell) overhears some older kids talking about a dead body they saw a few towns over, he shares the secret with his three best buddies (Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and River Phoenix). The next day, they head off for adventure, walking along the railroad tracks to find the body and become local heroes. But Rob Reiner’s film is all about the journey, not the destination. And all of his young actors are great — Wheaton as the sensitive narrator, Feldman as the slightly crazy wild card, and especially Phoenix as the tough-yet-tender doomed soul. At the end of the movie, Wheaton’s grown-up stand-in (Richard Dreyfuss) sums up that fateful summer, writing: ”I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” Good luck choking back the tears, folks. The new 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray comes with some nice new Extras, including a picture-within-picture commentary from ? a reunited Reiner, Wheaton, and Feldman. They swap memories and take digs at the absent O’Connell, whom they still treat like the tubby ne’er-do-well. Cracks Reiner, ”I can’t believe that little fat schmendrick is married to Rebecca Romijn.” Jesus, does anyone? B+
ADOLESCENT BONDING Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell, and Corey Feldman in Stand by Me (Everett Collection)
Starring: Wil Wheaton; Starring: Corey Feldman, River Phoenix; Director: Rob Reiner; Author: Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon, Stephen King; Runtime (in minutes): 89; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Posted March 17 2011 — 12:00 AM EDT
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