First, a question: How could you not enjoy watching 'Stand By Me'? Is it even possible? I'm sure someone out there dislikes this charming little film from Rob Reiner, but that person isn't me. Every time I start 'Stand By Me' it whisks me away on winds of nostalgia much like 'The Goonies' or 'The Sandlot' does. It creates an indelible impression on most who watch it. It's hard to imagine anyone looking back on this movie with anything other than fondness.
Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman), and Vern (Jerry O'Connell) make up the group of misfit friends – who cuss like seasoned sailors - that set out on a journey down the train tracks in search of a missing dead kid. Their goal is simple. Find the body, become famous, and all will be right with the world.
Gordie is dealing with the recent death of his older brother (John Cusack) and the fact that his parents liked his brother much more than him. Teddy has an abusive father, but still looks up to the man. He stormed the beaches of Normandy don't you know. Chris is Gordie's rock and helps to keep Gordie's outlook on life as positive as possible.
There's something about these kids that just draws you in. Their interaction with one another is simply entertaining to watch. They're young enough that they scare rather easily, but old enough to think that they can act like adults. They smoke, cuss, and fight with each other. Their dialogue is genuine, snappy, and oftentimes hilarious. The four of them set out on a road-trip of sorts, which takes on a fanciful aspect. The story is being narrated by an older Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss). His recounting of the events seems real, yet dreamlike. It's the same way we reminisce about our own childhoods.
Kiefer Sutherland co-stars here as one of the meanest bullies to ever appear on the big screen. He's determined to find the body before Gordie's gang does. When he whips out a knife and threatens to cut someone, it's believable. He's not joking. Not one bit.
Gordie is a writer and a storyteller. One of the best moments of the film is a sequence where Gordie retells a story he'd been thinking about. A fat kid named Lard Ass, a pie eating contest, and the ultimate revenge. Kids tell stories like this, that's what makes it so fun. It's so easy to relate to these kids because we were once like them.
'Stand By Me' will continue to be a perennial classic. It's got staying power, and that counts for a lot. The word classic gets thrown around quite often, but when it's twenty-five years later and this movie is still resonating with new audiences that categorizes it as a classic, at least in my book.
With many 80s films that finally find their way to Blu-ray, it's often easy to see their age. 'Stand By Me' definitely has that familiar 80s softness that gives us a perfect idea of the time period in which it was filmed. Still, with its age, Sony has put together another wonderful remaster, presenting as detailed and clear an image as you're likely ever going to get with this movie.
Brightly lit scenes are borderline spectacular. The smooth baby-faced kids don't look like they've been DNR'd into oblivion. Their faces look natural, and genuine. Film noise is kept at a minimum, although some specks pop up occasionally. I was surprised at how truly detailed this Blu-ray presentation was, though. From the worn wood of the train tracks, to the freckled, slightly reddened face of a young, chubby Jerry O'Connell. The prosthetic worn by Feldman to give him the wonky looking ear looks a lot more fake than it ever did on VHS or DVD, but that's just the nature of an HD image.
Colors, from deep browns to lush greens, are particularly strong and vibrant. The Lard Ass story is full of soft pastels and purple vomit that, whether you like it or not, bursts off the screen. Darker scenes are a little more murky harboring some noise and some poorly delineated shadows. They aren't a huge nuisance though, especially if you weren't expecting a completely crystal clear, brand new looking film from the outset. In short, anyone who's a fan of this movie will absolutely love this new remaster of the film.
'Stand By Me' comes complete with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and also with the original mono mix. Purists might want to stick with the mono mix for old time's sake, but just know that the lossless mix does provide its own treasure trove of sound.
In the 5.1 mix, the surrounds do seem a little reserved. At least it doesn't sound forced or unnatural. The roaring train barreling towards the kids on the bridge and the pie eating contest story are the two best examples of the rear channels coming to life. LFE is also pretty standoffish, but does pipe up every now and then especially as the train rumbles over the bridge. Dialgoue has a slight tinny sound to it, but it's nothing that we haven't come to expect from movies of this era. The dialogue is clearly reproduced and always comes through intelligibly.
Reiner's classic coming-of-age story is a nostalgic wonderland. I love it because it successfully transports me back to my own childhood. It's a movie that has cemented itself in popular culture and has gained new fans along the way. It has staying power and will be remembered long after so many other films will have been forgotten. Sony has treated this release with care, giving it a great new remaster, and a lossless 5.1 track to boot. One of the real treasures here is the brand new PiP commentary. What an amazing feature. Thank you, Sony. Thank you so much for taking the time and actually putting together a worthwhile special feature that will endlessly please fans. 'Stand By Me' comes highly recommended.