Stand By Me (Blu-ray)
“Do you guys wanna see a dead body?” Immediately engaging, that simple phrase sets up the action and reason for our four lead preteen boys to embark on a coming of age journey.
Some films stand the test of time by reaching an entire generation. With famous lines and scenes that embed themselves into a child’s psyche that will forever be remembered, revered and repeated. STAND BY ME happens to be one of those films for my generation.
In 1959, four best friends at the age of twelve are spending their last days of summer before they enter Junior High. Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton) is the quiet writer who recently lost his older brother (John Cusack), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) is the tragically doomed loyal leader, Teddy Cuchamp (Corey Feldman) is the loudmouth, deeply troubled wild card and Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell) is the goofy fat kid. They are all rejected losers of some kind. But what kid at that age isn’t? Without focusing on their problems they accept it as a part of life and are simply looking to have a good time. They happen upon some information where a missing dead kid might be and decide to go on a weekend hike to find the body, hopefully becoming local heroes. Along the tracks they come across obstacles in the form of trains, leaches, dogs, the dark of the night and a much older gang led by Keifer Sutherland. But like most journeys it’s about the adventure and the company.
Based on Stephen King’s novella The Body, the picture is narrated by an older Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss). Although it is told through Gordie’s eyes Chris is the inspiration for the story. But the story succeeds because of the characters. Great character development equals great films. Why the film works so well is because of these characters and the young actors who portrayed them. They do a fantastic job and a lot of credit belongs to Rob Reiner for pulling out these amazing performances. Special standout performance belongs to River Phoenix who commands the screen with natural charisma even at such a young age. It is a shame we lost him so quickly.
Backing up the picture is one of the best soundtracks of all time. Full of rockin’ 50’s music, you will surely (as I did) dust off this old album and give it a listen. I am hardly from the generation of this music but I that doesn’t stop me from supporting this old time rock-n-roll. Singing along to tracks like Yakety Yak, Great Balls of Fire and Lollipop, the music provides the perfect backdrop.
I have no doubt that just about every single person in my age range has seen this picture and loves it. As a kid I thought it was simply a fun movie with some funny scenes. Rewatching the film now that I am older, I find the characters identifiable in a more mature kind of way, which is a testament to why STAND BY ME holds up so well. Friends come and go throughout a lifetime. It’s a sad fact that sometimes you drift away from very impactful people in your life. These guys are loyal to one another and know each other better than family. Unfortunately that time will pass but those friends that you knew when you were kids will always hold a special place in your heart.
Whether it be the music, the pondering of life’s questions “What the hell is Goofy anyways?” or the random ‘Barforama’ revenge story, STAND BY ME has it all. Lines like “TRAIN!” or “Chopper sic balls” will stick with you and never lose their humor. Absolutely worth the revisit, STAND BY ME will make your childhood memory dance with happiness.
Video: (1080p High Definition 1. 85:1) The picture looks good even though it was filmed with a soft focus. Growing up, I never noticed Teddy’s burnt ear on our small television.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD MA) Nice clear sound.
Picture-In-Picture Video Commentary with Director Rob Reiner and Actors Wil Wheaton & Corey Feldman: This is a nice reunion with a short intro of the three reacquainting themselves. Feldman and Wheaton hadn’t seen each other since the film. It’s a fun track to hear and see them reminisce about making the film. This was put together specifically for the Blu-ray and I recommend it over the other.
Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner: This is a far more detailed and technical look but Reiner is a good storyteller making this an easy listen.
Walking the Track: The Summer of Stand By Me (36:46): Stephen King, Rob Reiner, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Keifer Sutherland and Richard Dreyfuss all discuss casting and making the picture. This is a nice retrospect for fans of the film.
Stand By Me Music Video (3:21): Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix make appearances in this cheesy video but fantastic song by Ben E. King.