Friday, June 26, 2015

CineMasochism: The Sandlot 2

Welcome to the second edition of CineMasochism, where I examine a movie I didn't know existed until I saw it in DVD form or in the online streaming ether. For this installment I will be watching 2005's The Sandot 2, the cat-from-Pet-Sematary-after-it-comes-back of movies.

The mid-90s were a golden age of baseball movies aimed at kids. Rookie of the Year (1993), Little Big League (1994), Angels in the Outfield (1994), and--my personal favorite--The Sandlot (1993). You may have a different favorite (Little Big League. If you saying anything besides LBL or "I don't like baseball movies" then you're a fool.) but you can't deny that these four movies represent the pinnacle of the genre. Which is what makes The Sandlot 2 so disheartening.

I do not take The Sandlot 2's existence as an affront to my childhood, because I am an adult and, presumably, possess the emotional intelligence to not be angry with another person's creative endeavors. However, I am suspicious of its existence. The fact that David Mickey Evans, the original writer-director-narrator, returns to his roles offers hope. And having recently viewed and enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road, it seems silly to foster hostile feelings towards one auteur for expanding upon his vision while accepting another for doing the same. Even though it is my idyllic youth being TRAMPLED UPON, I am determined to give it a chance. Besides, why shouldn't kids now (or in 2005) have their own baseball movie to enjoy?

Fortunately the movie quickly squanders any leeway and good will afforded to it. Which is nice, because it allows viewers (please, don't view this movie) to enter full Buzzfeed Ehrmagehrd My Childhood Was Objectively Better Than Any Other Human Childhood Because Disney's The Gummi Bears Mode and begin loudly accusing the characters on screen of being no Hamilton Porter without remorse. David Mickey Evans had his chance. And he left that chance in a hot car to die.

Sandlot 2 opens with a montage of scenes from the first Sandlot, reminding you of the movie you should probably be watching instead. Even the trailer is fifty percent scenes from the original.

It is now the 70s. You can tell SL2 is set in the 70s because every once in a while someone will say Groovy, Far Out, or Right On. Plus, one kid looks like he's wearing a Jimi Hendrix costume and the Women's Lib movement is mentioned in pejoratively. It is ten years after Benny pickled the Beast. We are told the ball he got back is know as The Great Ball. The movie is narrated by Johnnie Buckminster Smalls, younger brother of Scotty Smalls, though still voiced by writer-director Evans. Johnnie is a model rocket enthusiast who gets involved with the Sandlot kids when he accidentally sets fire to the dugout. Johnnie's rocketry hobby also leads to some unfortunate CGI.

What's most frustrating about The Sandlot 2 (other than it reminding me of my lost youth, time's ability to vanquish us all, and that weird sound my knees make) is that it has the same plot and most of the same scenes  as the original. The kids have to rescue an object Smalls sends into Mr. Mertle's back yard. They go to a carnival. There is a fireworks scene. They go swimming because it is too hot to play baseball. They face off against a snooty Little League team after a round of name calling. Except none of it is done as well as in the original. This is the kid version of The Hangover Part II. There's nothing in this movie that you can't get by rewatching The Sandlot. Even if you're watching with a kid who's only reason for doing so is that it exists, my advice would be to push for simply starting the original over from the beginning.

Even a lot of the same dialogue is used. After Johnnie accidentally launches a NASA prototype he stands in the outfield dazed. Saul, SL2's mash-up of Bertram and Timmy, says that "Maybe the shock of knowing some famous science dude was too much for him." Which is a version of what is said about Scotty Smalls after hitting his first homerun. When Johnnie explains what happened with the rocket, the scene plays out exactly like the scene when Scotty explains that he hit a signed Babe Ruth ball over the fence. The kids take turns berating him, someone tells him that it's worth more than his whole life, then they give him some air by fanning him. It's all the same scenes. It's awful.

How to use this movie to be a film snob
Discuss how it's a lazy retread and uses feminism as comedy. You can also argue that while the film does use 1970s feminist stereotypes as sources of humor, it also pokes fun at male characters for being scared of assertive women. You'll appear extra smart for finding a positive aspect of this film.

Key phrases to bandy about: Retrograde Misogyny. Dreck.

Sweet lines to help you start The Sandlot 2's cult following
"Serious like Gloria Steinem."
That's it. Every other line worth a damn is from the first movie.

Is it rewatchable?
No. A small child forcing you into a repeat viewing is the only reason to experience this twice. But they'll eventually kick you out of the room once you start ranting about "Baseball movies in my day..."

Was that summary not enough for you? Do you want to read my reactions to The Sandlot 2 as I watched it?

Allow me to present:

Denny's Diary of The Sandlot 2

[Editor's note: The Sandlot 2 is available to view on YouTube if you want to grit your teeth along with me.]

David Mickey Evans sounds like Seth Macfarland. It's not a critique. Just a fact I hadn't noticed until now.

Johnathan Buckminster Smalls?
[Editor's note: It's not Scotty, it's Johnnie. I was naturally confused because Johnnie and Scotty grow up to have the same adult voice.]

One of the kids rides in a side car bike while his brother pedals. Sidecar kid is deaf. I'm not sure if these are related. Do they need the sidecar because it's dangerous for the deaf brother to be riding or only for the coolness factor? If I was the brother pedaling I would be pissed. I know he's deaf, but he's also too big to not carry his own weight. Get a tandem!

 His name is "Fingers." This is a solid attempt to recapture the magic of the Squints and Yeah Yeah nicknames. Plus, that nickname can only get better as he ages and starts getting to third base. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? DOUBLE DOUBLE ENTENDRE!)

The black kid looks like he's in a Jimi Hendrix costume. Later he wears a leather vest with fringe.

Dizzy by Tommy Roe plays while a boy bumps into a pretty girl and is speechless at her prettiness. Except he is also pretty, so I'm not buying it. She then comments on how fast he is after picking up her book from the ground. What a weird comment. Think about how fast someone would have to pick up a thing for you to be impressed. There's a large range of speed that you would just find awkward and weird. Like, calm down, dude. Don't throw out your back over a dropped book. Any impressively fast bending over and picking up would be SO fast that it would make you suspicious.
[Editor's Note: Later, the girl, WHO IS NO WENDY PFEFFERCORN, will assume the boy can run fast because of this incident. Fucking stupid.]

A knock-off of Cream's White Room plays.

Johhnie Smalls shoots a rocket through a couch in dugout. There's some voice over exposition. Apparently it's a case of mistaken identity. The fancy shmancy little league team wants to take over the sandlot for their practices. The crew sees Johnnie launching a rocket and naturally assume he's blowing up the sandlot. These kids are idiots. They chase Johnnie. He jumps a fence and lands in a pool.

The girl with a keen eye for speed saves Johnnie. She inexplicably has a southern accent despite living in California and having parents who lack southern accents. Fingers tells everyone that the dugout is on fire. The crew rush to save it in a moment of Marxian (Marxist?) slapstick involving a hose of insufficient length. During the commotion, the southern belle--named Hayley--demands that Johnnie return the next day since he owes her.

She makes him act as groundskeeper so she and two friends can play softball, which they refer to as baseball. When the boys return, Hayley continues to refer to softball, the game and the physical object, as baseball. The boys are sexist and tell her leave. (Listen, doll.) But she's liberated and stands her ground. Unfortunately, she is calling a softball a baseball which makes her sound like a dumb girl who doesn't deserve to play sports. I don't care how unfounded and unfair division of the sexes is, or how obvious the benefits of equal treatment are, the instant you stand on a soccer pitch declaring your right to play lacrosse too, you're done. The sexist boneheads have won, if only in their minds. You can't come back from mislabeling the sport.

It's an odd choice on the part of David Mickey Evans to open the movie with the sandlot crew being sexist and in the wrong. Let me get to know them first and them have them be dumb boys who default to "Girls, yuck!" As it is, they're unlikable and I don't care if they keep the sandlot. They don't deserve it.

I've already done the math. There are 5 boys terrorizing everyone, there's the nerd kid, and three girls. 9 people. Which is how many you need to field a baseball team. NEW BESTIES/TEAMATES.

Despite this obvious solution, the crew still wants to assert their alpha-male dominance over the girls even though it's totally the 70s and women are burning their bras and stuff. A chubby, ginger kid, an obvious stand in for Hamilton Porter who will be referred to as Fake Hambino, steps up to put the dames in their place. A heated discussion of the merits of women playing baseball begins.

Fake Hambino

Fake Hambino: Girls can't play baseball
Hayley: Wanna bet?
Fake Hambino: I don't bet trash, I burn it.

And then

Fake Hambino: You're serious?
Hayley: Like Gloria Steinem.

They bet that she can strike him out in three pitches. Winner assumes dominion over the sandlot.

"Bring it on, skirt," he says while wearing a WWII helmet and choking up on the bat way too much.

She pitches underhand and he doesn't see it. Blinks and misses the pitch. Which is extra sad, because softball mounds are closer than baseball mounds because you can't throw softballs as fast. But she was pitching from the baseball mound.

The pretty boy pinch hits to save the day. He then fouls off a thousand pitches until their mom's yell for them to come home because it will be dark soon, even though it is still bright as hell outside and can't be past 4pm. God, Mom! You ruin everything!

Intrigue: Some kid who looks like Draco Malfoy's disco brother has been spying on the events from the tree house.

The girls and boys reconvene the next day to settle the score. Instead of resuming the at-bat, the two factions refuse to talk, opting to have Johnnie serve as go-between delivering messages such as "Leave, this is our Sandlot" and "No." There's a Benny Hill style sped up section, where he zips back and forth. Which would be funny if the times we heard what the kids had to say it was anything more substantial than "We were here first" and "Tough shit." Plus, they're fifty feet apart.

The kid playing Johhnie is a terrible actor. Plus he has some non-descript accent. And he likes rockets!? He's a Russian spy! Fake Hambino is the only one with any chops.Were the kids in The Sandlot this terrible? No way.

Johnnie (who I refuse to refer to as Smalls) suggests they all just play together. The boys, victims of the hetero-sexist patriarchy in which they were raised, find the idea unnatural. Until Bertram 2.0 points out that doing so will fill out the roster, giving them a full team. Something I knew instantly, because I am smarter than fictional children in desperate need to dramatic tension.

After everyone realizes the benefits of fielding nine position players in baseball. They agree to terms and celebrate over cookies and OJ in the dugout, which the girls somehow fixed in one day and made look like Martha Stewart decorated it. Fake Hambino has a metal canteen and camo vest/cap. He's probably going to have some flashbacks.

Because they have a full team, everyone goes to the nice baseball field to challenge the snooty-ass little league team, which consists entirely of Mitch Kramer clones. Fake Hambino and the leader of the other team have an insult-off. Nothing about this scene is as good as the one it's rehashing. You will need to watch the original to wash the taste out of your eyeballs. But you can't accuse David Mickey Evans of being a lazy writer. Sure, he reuses the "You play ball like a girl" line, but it's given to the other archetype. Except the sandlot crew has actual girls, so it's totally not cool. #YesAllCoedPickUpBaseballTeams.

Having successfully shouted at the other team, they go to the carnival.

Deaf kid isn't allowed to go near the kissing booth. He's a mack daddy.
The kissing booth has a height restriction, and he's too short to kiss. He gets some platform shoes. Smooth.
The girl at the booth tells him, "just on the cheek." I wonder what's going to happen.
He grabs her head and gives her a big ol' smooch.
This is all the same shit from the first movie with shittier music.
And no Wendy Pfeffercorn.

The big game against the Little League One-Percenters happens. Hayley is heading home from third to win the game. The catcher, Snooty Kid, stands in front of home with the ball and tags her out/knocks her down. And the Sandlot kids freak out even though blocking the plate is A TOTALLY NORMAL BASEBALL PLAY! Hayley is crying, which I feel validates the boys original assertion that girls should not play baseball with boys. Pretty Boy punches Snooty Kid. Everyone acts like someone just used a racial slur. The little league team storms away.

Fake Hambino gets an aluminum bat which is space-aged technology. Instantly cranks a homer.
everyone goes to get the ball back.
Johnnie freaks out. Warns them about the Great Fear, spawn of the Beast. They have to look through a hole in a wall of washing machines to see for themseves.

Fake Hambino says Johnnie is "freaking oot." THEY'RE CANADIAN! THIS MOVIE IS A SHAM!

Smalls freaking oot.
[Editor's note: This clip encapsulates the movies pretty well. Bad CGI, 70s slang, recycled material.]

Smalls has to explain the Great Fear. This obviously requires a sleepover, but to mix things up Fake Hambino says "bivouac" instead of "sleepover."
Of course there's a black and white flashback where Johnnie explains that some kid lost something over the fence and couldn't get it back because The Great Fear drooled on it. The kid loved some made up superhero, tried to get his toy back and was bitten by the dog. There's a chase scene in the flashback with rip-off Wipeout music. So,

I just realized that Johnnie looks like Tig Notaro with a bowl cut.

Fourth of July is coming up and since Johnnie loves rockets he buys a bunch of fireworks. The narrator tells us that kids these days are coddled because they aren't allowed to buy dangerous fireworks. I don't come to subpar sequels for the hot parenting takes, David Mickey Evans!

Oh, now it's too hot. The girls want to go swimming.
Fuck this movie. It's like they asked people what their favorite parts of the original were and then recreated the environment those parts occurred in.
Oh they liked Hambino saying "I'm baking like a toasted cheeser" let's have another scene where it's hot. And they loved Squints kissing Wendy Pfeffercorn at the pool. We need a scene with a pool.
I find this movie aimed at children to be insulting to my intelligence.

Pretty Boy (whose name is David) is ashamed of something under his 70s tubesock and won't go swimming. He's a never nude.

Far out. Right on. Groovy. It must be the 70s.

Hey, they got the rights to Spirit in the Sky.

Hayley's dad works for NASA and has a badass rocket. He offers to launch it with Johnnie, but then flakes just because he has urgent NASA business. But he doesn't tell Johnnie, so our man J. Smalls sets it up to wait for Mr. Hayley.
 Johnnie straps an astronaut action figure to the rocket. That's his thing. Except it's a dumb thing for a nerd to do. PAYLOAD WEIGHT BALANCE SMALLS!
He falls asleep with the launch button on his lap. It falls and the rocket launches. OH NO!
Crazy special effects.
Ruins the dugout again.
Oh Shit, that rocket was important real NASA shit.

Smalls is standing in the crater made by the launch. Staring off into space (GET IT) and Bertram 2.0 says Maybe the shock of knowing some famous science dude was too much for him.
It's the same damn line from the first one.

The shuttle from the rocket lands in the Big Fear's/Mr. Mertle's back yard.

God dammit.
"You mean to tell me that you launched a scale model of the NASA Space Shuttle."
"It's worth more than your whole life, Smalls."
He faints. "Give him some air."

Whole chunks of dialogue, just recycled from the first movie. Am I allowed to be angry this movie now without seeming like a person with unresolved emotional issues?

Johnnie explains that, like his brother, he has a bit of an engineering streak. The crew decides to sacrifice a cat to The Big Fear using, not an erector set, but some jankity mish-mash of toys.

Disco Draco shows up to get the shuttle back. He says they call him the Retriever. He lost his frisbee over a fence to a dog once, and now collects dogs' name tags as vengeance. He doesn't say he kills the dogs, but you know he does. One look at his necklace dangling with hundreds of tags tells you all you need to know.
The Big Fear tosses the Retriever over the fence and into the pool. The Retriever retires instantly. I guess this supposed to tell us how formidable The Big Fear is, because a kid we're meeting for the first time told us how great he is at murdering dogs and taking their tags as trophies, and that kid couldn't handle the dog.

The kids tunnel under the fence.

I swear to God if James Earl Jones says "Why didn't you just come and ask me. I'd have gotten it for you." I will be pissed.
[Editor's note: Spoiler alert, he does.]

Fake Hambino, the one who volunteered to go into the tunnel, poops his pants after being chased by The Big Fear. We get to see the stain.

Why the hell is a NASA employee keeping a working model of the space shuttle in his garage? I don't know why that question is only now coming into my head.

Pretty Boy declares that he needs to step up and be a hero, so he will climb into Mr. Mertle's backyard, grab the shuttle and bring it back. Of course he has some special shoes to help him run faster. In a blink-you'll-miss-it moment of product placement, the narrator drops a line about Nike the winged Greek goddess of victory. (NIKE SHOES? FUCK YOU! PF FLYERS OR GTFO!) Pretty Boy pulls out what are clearly basketball shoes. They are bulky and puffy. They are not meant for speed on dirt or grass. I hope he gets eaten in that yard and The Big Fear chokes on his femur, so they rot together under the hot July sun. Hayley, who does not share my wishes, knows Pretty Boy is fast because she saw him pick up her homework real quick, and tells him to Just Do It.

Pretty Boy is the kid from the story who liked the Rocket Comic book. Or something. He acts like a matador to avoid The Big Fear, minus the stabbing with frilly spears--Do you hear me, Spain? The spears you use to slowly murder an animal are gaudy!

The dog jumps the fence, thus beginning the rehash of The Sandlot's chase scene. This time scored with BTO's Taking Care of Business. They reuse the shot of the dog jumping over the camera, which means that every Sandlot movie has shot of a dog's dick in it. Way to keep the streak alive.

Pretty Boy curses. You can tell a movie cool when it thinks you're mature enough to curse in front of you.
Like version of this scene I enjoy, everyone ends up back at the sandlot. The giant wall of washing machines falls on Pretty Boy. He falls into the tunnel. The Big Fear digs him out.

Another recycled line. This time it's, "He doesn't look too good." That's not even a very distinctive line, but I know David Mickey Evans half-assed his way through this screenplay and I'm looking out for it. There were too many other repeats and I know The Sandlot so well that I can't let anything slide now. I'm like a conspiracy theorist who's too much in his own head, to the point where innocuous things seem to hint at something nefarious. "Strike three". Hey! That's in the first movie.

James Earl Jones recaps the first movie for them. This is the second time the first movie has been summarized. Mr. Mertle says the crew should have just asked to be let into the backyard. Then he strikes a deal to take down the wall--Mr. Mertle, tear down this wall!--if they agree to walk The Big Fear (who's real name is Goliath. Which is great, because Pretty Boy's name is David. Get it?).

The Big Fear has sex with a lady dog. Puppies are born. Everyone gets a puppy, which they will chain up in a yard surrounded by a makeshift fence cobbled together with scrap metal, until neighbor kids develop a mythology around the rabid animal kept in solitary confinement.

Everyone is summarized. Fingers and his brother started Def Jam Records. BOLD MOVE! Because I know that to be false. Unless his brother is Rick Rubin. Fingers also started Kissing Booth Bubble Gum. That's got to be something you keep from the artists you're trying to sign to Def Jam.
[Editor's note: I did consider the fact that they went with the spelling of Deaf Jam and they aren't really implying one of these kids became Rubin, but are in fact violators of trademark/copyright law. In one scenario the script writer thinks he or you are an idiot. In the other scenario the characters are idiots.]

The credits are rolling.
The producers would like to thank Nike. No shit, I'm sure that Just Do It line paid for the rocket launch scene.

I'm excited to find out if I can watch The Sandlot ever again without shaking my head and muttering "goddammit."

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