Time for an adventure. So this is about a band of four young boys in a small Oregon town. When rumors start to circulate about a dead body of a missing classmate just outside of town, they decide to make it a day trip. Rob Reiner really is one of my favorite sleeper directors; his name doesn’t get brought up all that much when talking about the greats, but he has made a number of films that are bonafide classics (The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…). The films that he makes are all likable, but one thing I really appreciate is that he doesn’t pad out his movies; he makes films as long as they need to be, so they have a tendency to run on the brisk side. He’s not afraid to make a movie 82 minutes long (This Is Spinal Tap) because he has a great understanding of the fact that it is better to leave the audience wanting more and not getting it, rather than risk getting tired of it.
Out of all the movies out there, this is probably the most quintessential coming of age film (when vindictively googling in “coming of age movies”, this is second only behind The Breakfast Club). You’ve got these boys on the brink of young adulthood, and they are getting pushed right over the line when they decide to make this trip. That’s also what helps to make this so memorable: this movie has a dark streak. It’s a very sordid story being told, and when you get to the epilogue, it gets downright harsh. It makes it feel all the more realistic, though, and you 100% buy that these kids who think that swearing is cool are capable of being thrust into adulthood the moment they lay eyes on this dead body.
Except for Wil Wheton. He’s destined to always be a kid, and he will always be losing games over at Tabletop.
The adventure element to this makes it really easy to connect with. While I would never personally go out on this trek, it is nevertheless fun to see these kids bro out with each other. It’s likable, and really captures what it’s like to live in a small town where everybody knows your name. All of these kids are types, but they are fully developed so they feel like real characters, and you can always identify with at least one of them. Just as a side note, the visualization of the county fair was a little much, but it makes perfect sense because it’s a kid telling the story. This is great source material, and a wonderful adaptation.
Stand by Me (1986) ****
– Critic for Hire