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Rob Reiner
Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Casey Siemaszko, Gary Riley, Bradley Gregg
Writing Credits:
Stephen King (novella, "The Body"), Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans

Based on Stephen King's Short story "The Body", Stand By Me tells the tale of Gordie Lachance, a writer who looks back on his preteen days when he and three close friends went on their own adventure to find the body of a kid their age who had gone missing and presumed dead. The stakes are upped when the bad kids in town are closely tailing - and it becomes a race to see who'll be able to recover the body first.

Box Office:
$8 million.
Opening Weekend
$242.795 thousand on 16 screens.
Domestic Gross
$52.287 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 3/22/2011

• Video Commentary by Director Rob Reiner and Actors Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman
• Audio Commentary by Director Rob Reiner
• “Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me” Documentary
• Music Video
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Stand By Me [Blu-Ray] (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 11, 2011)

"Coming of age" movies are a dime a dozen because the format seems so simple. Hey, everybody had a childhood, so why not dream up a story based on yours? That premise inspires tons of films and books, but unfortunately few of these ring true; most fall into the crass and cheesy category.

Rob Reiner's 1986 hit Stand By Me is one of the few that essentially gets it right. It's a little unusual in that most of these sorts of films tend to deal with later adolescence and sexual matters; late teen years dominate the field, mostly because those give the filmmakers an excuse to feature some nudity ala Porky's. However, Stand shows a group of four 12-year-old boys who are making the transition between childhood and adolescence and it nicely translates the highs and lows of that period.

Adapted from a story by Stephen King, Stand shows the kids as they attempt to find a dead body; a youngster has disappeared but they have some apparently good information about the whereabouts of the corpse. With dreams of accolades in their heads, these four set out on a trek to get to the body first.

Of course, the dead kid is just a "McGuffin" - although the film seems to be concerned with the corpse, it's really just an excuse to gets these kids in soul-searching mode at this crucial time in their lives. The film takes place immediately prior to the start of seventh grade, an event that apparently spells doom for the tight foursome since they won't be in all the same classes any longer. Stand takes these factors and combines them into the action we witness during the boys' two-day hike to find the dead youngster.

While parts of the movie seem a little forced, as we find a little too many events that trigger the kids' "hot buttons" - only one of the four doesn't have a scene in which they get to do the "serious emotions" thing - I still felt it balanced some serious topics with the inherent frivolity and silliness of that age. Since the movie takes place in 1959, clearly the references are dated, but the tone hasn't aged a day; boys still act in the same goofy and crude ways all these years later, and Reiner aptly captures that mood.

Though the film lacks much of a plot, the interaction between the four principals seems strong enough to keep it moving at a solid pace. A few moments seem tacked on and somewhat gratuitous; for example, the "pie eating contest" story told by Gordy (Wil Wheaton) is entertaining but I thought it disrupted the flow of the piece. However, most of the events appear to serve the story and they advance it well.

All four of the leads - Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman - provide very solid performances. Frankly, I can't say that any of them stand out, though O'Connell seems the most engaging; perhaps this is because his role is the slightest of the four and he functions mainly as comic relief. In any case, he does so winningly and makes an underwritten part more fun and compelling than it should be.

In that regard, I felt Stand could have used more depth. The relationships the kids have with their families are examined to a degree but not with any thoroughness, and I still found it tough to tell what made the boys tick. In some ways, this lack of exploration works well; the movie felt like it had too many "strong emotions" scenes anyway. However, I couldn't help but wonder about the familial dynamics a bit more and I wish they'd receive greater examination.

Nonetheless, I like Stand By Me. It doesn't qualify as Reiner's best work - he'll never approach This Is Spinal Tap - but it let him start a move from pure comedies to more subtle, human material. Frankly, I'm not sure that was a positive change, since so many of his later films have been pretty bad - The Story Of Us, anyone? – but Stand creates a generally positive piece that offers a nice look at an interesting time in boys' lives.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Stand By Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a good but not great presentation.

For the most part, the film boasted good sharpness. The photographic style opted for a somewhat gauzy look at times, but actual softness was rare, so the majority of the flick appeared concise and accurate. I noticed no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws became a minor distraction. I noticed occasional specks but nothing substantial.

Stand maintains a subdued palette, but the colors appeared accurate and neatly saturated, without any signs of fading, bleeding or noise. Black levels were dark and rich, and shadow detail seemed clear and lacked any excessive heaviness to obscure parts of the image in low-light situations. The image never really excelled, but it worked pretty well.

In addition to the film’s original monaural audio, the Blu-ray provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. This went with a generally laid-back soundscape, though a few scenes brought the track to life. The sequences with trains and cars used the five channels, and Gordie’s story about the pie-eating contest also featured the back speakers in an active manner. Otherwise, the mix usually opted for general ambience; those elements created a decent sense of place.

Audio quality was acceptable given its age. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music tended toward 50s songs, with only a little score along for the ride. Those aspects of the mix showed decent range and definition. Effects were also fair, though they lacked great punch; for instance, the train scenes seemed a little thin. Still, they were adequate. Overall, this was a decent little remix.

How did the Blu-ray’s picture and audio compare to those of the DVD release? The sound was different but not necessarily superior. Yes, the 5.1 track offered a broader soundscape, but I tend to be leery of movies that alter the original material and I prefer to stay with the theatrical audio. Still, the 5.1 mix worked pretty well, so it’s a nice option for those who’d like to hear it.

The visuals displayed less equivocal improvements. The Blu-ray was definitely crisper and better defined than the DVD, and colors seemed stronger as well. This became a nice step up in picture quality.

Most of the DVD’s extras appear here, along with one new component. We find an audio commentary from director Rob Reiner, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. I've heard a few prior tracks from Reiner and found them to be fairly dry; his remarks during Criterion's treatment of This Is Spinal Tap were decent but his discussion of The Story of Us was almost as dull as the movie itself. Unfortunately, Stand does nothing to alter my impressions of Reiner's commentary style; this is another drab track.

The piece features many long pauses, and when Reiner speaks, it's usually to tell us that what we're seeing on screen was influenced by his childhood. That may sound good, as one might expect some interesting insights into his youth, and Reiner indeed provides a few compelling nuggets about his early life. However, the vast majority of the time he simply states that "My friends and I used to do that all the time" and provides no greater depth. I got the point very quickly and this made the commentary as a whole quite a drag.

For the new extra, 25 Years Later: A Picture-in-Picture Commentary Retrospective gives us a chat with director Rob Reiner and actors Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman. It opens with a three-minute, 57-second intro in which the three men greet each other at the studio. After that, they sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion of sets and locations, cast and performances, and various aspects of shooting the flick.

While Blu-ray Discs often make good use of the picture-in-picture option to show storyboards, footage from the set, and other elements, this one gives us nothing more than shots of the guys as they chat. That makes it pretty useless from that point of view; I don’t understand the appeal of watching people as they sit in a recording studio, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re better off thinking of this as a standard audio commentary.

In that vein, it’s pretty good. Reiner sounds uninvolved in the 2000 commentary, but here he comes across as lively and chatty. As usual, Feldman tends to be somewhat self-involved – he loves to remind us what a bad boy he was – but he adds some good notes, and Wheaton seems charming and self-deprecating. They throw out a mix of nice notes and reflections on the movie in this enjoyable chat.

Titled Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me, this 36-minute and 46-second program offers interviews with Reiner, author Stephen King, and actors Richard Dreyfuss, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland plus some film clips and a few production shots. It's a solid documentary that offers a terrific look at the creation of the film. Even though Reiner repeats a lot of the material stated in his commentary, he seems more compelling within this tightly-edited environment, and the additional perspectives are invaluable. It's a coherent and taut show that added to my enjoyment of the film.

We get a music video for "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King. This clip features movie shots plus vintage performance footage of King intercut with some old photos of the singer and circa 1986 lip-synch material with him. The latter also includes Phoenix and Wheaton who participate in the performance to a minor degree. It's not a bad little piece.

A few ads appear under Previews. We find promos for Get Low, Country Strong, Green Hornet and Taxi Driver. No trailer for Stand By Me appears here.

Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the DVD? Yup: it loses the movie’s trailer, some text “talent files” and an isolated score. In addition, a now out of print Deluxe Edition included a CD “songtrack” and a 32-page booklet, neither of which reappears here.

Stand By Me isn't perfect, but I thought it offered a nice look at an interesting time of life. The film is well-acted and rings true. The Blu-ray provides good picture, modest but adequate sound, and a mix of supplements that include an entertaining new video commentary. Fans will be happy with this satisfying release.

To rate this film, visit the Deluxe Edition review of STAND BY ME

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