There’s a short window of time where boyhood seems to peak before snapping off to adolescence and movies like Stand By Me capture it in all its raw glory and terror. Directed by Rob Reiner, the film is based off Stephen King’s story, The Body, where four twelve year old boys take a two day hike out to find a the body of a dead kid.
Stand By Me is more grim and realistic than many movies that use a similar formula. The Goonies has a greater air of whimsy and The Sandlot is more rooted in boyhood mischief. For me, Stand By Me creates a stronger emotional connection. I feel sorry for each boy, and their problems are not comical or cute. Chris (River Phoenix) comes from a rough family and is assumed to be a bad kid, so he goes with it. Teddy (Corey Feldman) nearly had his ear burnt off by his now institutionalized father. Vern (Jerry O’Connell) is a fat kid no one takes seriously bullied by his trouble making older brother. And poor Gordie (Wil Wheaton) has become invisible to his parents since his hero older brother died a few months ago.
Setting off on this adventure is a great way to escape their troubles and little town for a while. Best of all, they think they will come back heroes, with their pictures in the paper, interviewed on tv and all. Like most adventures, the journey is the best part, where they laugh, narrowly escape trouble and feel invincible. But we are reminded now and then that they’re on their way to find a dead kid, maybe it shouldn’t be a party. And they are not the only ones looking to find the dead kid.
The moment everyone remembers from Stand By Me is the train trestle scene. Earlier it is said that the dead kid they are out looking for was probably hit by the train while crossing the bridge, and we are afraid that history will repeat itself. The moment they set across, the tension starts to pull tighter. I cringe and laugh as dorky little Vern crawls in an effort to be extra cautious. Then the train looms around the bend and poor Gordie and Vern scramble and run for their lives.
What makes Stand By Me stand out and become a great movie is the writing. It received and Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay. The dialogue exchange between the boys flows flawlessly and sounds authentic. Best of all it can range from childish conversations about what the hell Goofy is and crude insults, to their secret fears and personal struggles.
Stand By Me is a classic that I am happy to have finally seen. The young cast is convincing and drive the film perfectly. Sutherland and his gang are perfect baddies that I love to loathe. And when it’s all done and the credits are rolling to B. E. King’s Stand By Me, I wish I had had some kind of adventure with friends like Gordie and Chris in the twilight of childhood.
“-This is my age! I’m in the prime of my youth, and I’ll only be young once!
-Yeah, but you’re gonna be stupid for the rest of your life.”