“The Sandlot: Heading Home” (2007) Review

This is part of a new series where I’ll be watching Disney movies I’ve never seen and reviewing them (thanks Disney+!).ย 

With baseball starting back up this month, the sequel to The Sandlot seemed like the perfect movie to kick off this series. I love the first movie, and I’m not sure why I haven’t seen the second one. It obviously wasn’t as popular as the first, and it came out in 2007 so it could also have been that I was just at that weird age when you’re ‘too cool’ for Disney movies.

In any case, this movie as you’d expect essentially follows a group of kids playing baseball on the sandlot, but the plot is much more, uh, convoluted than the first movie. Where the first one is a classic coming of age story, the sequel throws in some time travel. It starts with an overview of the life of Tommy Santorelli, who’s had a successful career playing for a variety of teams, but most recently the Dodgers where he’s become pretty conceited and unlikable….almost unbearably unlikable honestly. The plot of the sequel follows Santorelli (aka “Santa” as he calls himself) as he travels back in time to when he was 12 years old after being hit with a fastball while practicing. His character at least as an adult is intended to be unlikable but it’s almost so over the top that it’s a little too much and watching the first couple of minutes comes with some serious cringe factor.

As Tommy wakes up in 1976 on the field of the sandlot realizing he’s 12 years old, he goes through all of the tropes that come with this kind of time travel in movies, but he almost pushes it too far. Maybe if he were a 12 year old just going back in time, but despite looking like a kid for the majority of the movie he’s mentally in his 40s and he still lets anecdotes about the future slip out nearly all the time all while not really getting into the fact that he’s from the future, for fear of looking nuts we can only assume. It almost gives off the vibe that the movie was dumbed down for kids as if they wouldn’t have caught on without the fact that he was from the future being so in your face.

The first few minutes of exposition on Tommy point out that his mom died of cancer earlier in his life, so her sickness is something that sort of hangs over the entire movie without getting really too detailed. There’s obviously some emotion there with Tommy seeing his mom again as a kid, but it’s not as developed as I would have liked, at least for a movie that’s telling you in the first three minutes that the mom is dead.

There is a subplot that the sandlot is for sale and the penultimate game to help determine what happens with it during an all around strange city council meeting is played on the sandlot. Tommy at one point decides to play for another team, one with players who earlier in the film bully him and his friends, but when it’s brought up that being on that team would help him with get further with the sport he decides to join them despite knowing it’s wrong. Predictably, he switches teams by the time the big game starts going back to the group of kids he’d been practicing with since he returned to 1976.

I hate to make this review so negative, it has its positives and we’re getting there but there’s a lot to unpack here, and a lot of the negative parts of the film are probably made more noticeable by the fact that the first one was so good. I’m also trying to view this knowing that I saw the first film as a kid, so maybe someone who was a kid in 2007 would feel differently about the sequel, but I think the fact is it’s pretty devoid of emotion especially when compared to the first that I just didn’t walk away from it feeling much of anything. (Even when Tommy goes to see his mom for the last time as a 12 year old, it was a touching moment in theory but aside from knowing I’m supposed to feel sad because the mom is dying it just didn’t do much for me. Or maybe I have no soul, who knows? But we really didn’t see that much of their relationship to have some sort of deeper feeling about it when that scene came.)

The same lack of emotion I think resonates with the kids. They’re pretty much archetypes of the kids in the first movie, which you expect for this sort of thing, but it’s hard to feel a connection with them probably due to the subplot of the sandlot being potentially sold, the time travel-esque stuff, and a bunch of scenes that while entertaining were kind of just weird or poorly shot. I’m sure you could argue that the first film had some unnecessary theatrics, but they worked in a way that didn’t take away from how you felt watching the kids and their friendship. This film has some side characters that just felt really underdeveloped and some scenes that were meant to be funny and may have been during the writing process but they just went on for too long that I was left feeling like I just wanted the kids to talk about baseball more and quit with the extended gags.

Wow all that made this movie seem awful….Here are the positives: A couple of characters return from the first one. I expected Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez to be back, and he was as the manager of the Dodgers when Tommy played for them, and when he’s back in the 70s Squints shows up too. Benny is definitely the more interesting return character here, as it’s neat to see where he went since the first film ended (in the present). Squints runs a pharmacy in town and helps Benny with coaching on the sandlot (in ’76), which is fine, but kind of one-dimensional. I’m not sure what else I’d expect, and Benny obviously plays a bigger role in the whole story, but after the novelty wore off of thinking, “Hey, it’s Squints!” and thinking wow, he somehow looks exactly the same, his character really didn’t add all that much to the story.

There were a few lines that were either just witty and well written or nods to the first film that I really enjoyed. The dialogue when the kids describe Babe Ruth as the greatest baseball player from the first film made its way into this one for instance. And I actually laughed out loud when Tommy was at a doctor’s visit to figure out what his crazy talk was as a 12 year old in 1976 talking about the future when he exclaimed, “I don’t think I have a concussion, I just think I’m dead!”

It has a happy ending (mostly, I mean the mom definitely wasn’t doing great). But their team wins and Tommy wakes up in the future to learn that he stayed with the Dodgers instead of leaving his girlfriend and moving to make more money with the Yankees, and he’s married, has kids, and is still friends with the guys from his childhood. It feels extremely rushed in my opinion, but it ties everything up nicely (maybe too nicely honestly, it’s just such a cliche).

That might be it for the positives….It’s not a bad movie, it was an entertaining hour and a half and I don’t regret watching it, but I can’t imagine a time when I’d watch this again. The first one is just so infinitely better, and maybe this one would have been more comparable if there was more nostalgia factor, like if the movie focused on the children of the kids from the first one (which I know is just more cliche but if the whole movie is already one big cliche maybe at least bring in more characters I know I definitely care about?).

For a straight to DVD sequel I think it’s mostly what you’d expect, and it’s the kind of thing I’d put on if I were scrolling through Disney Channel while I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night, but if I were making a conscious decision to watch a coming of age story or a sports movie it just isn’t something I’d probably pick again. The first Sandlot isn’t on Disney+ at the moment, so maybe give this a try if you’re curious about it, but if you’re on the fence there’s a whole sports movie section on the app and I think any of those are probably a better choice.

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