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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

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby 2.0
English Monaural

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 3/22/2005

• Audio Commentary by Director Rob Reiner
• “Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me” Documentary
• Talent Files
• Music Video
• Bonus Trailers

32-Page Booklet
Bonus CD Soundtrack


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: Deluxe Edition (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 24, 2005)

"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 DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Stand By Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture presented a few minor flaws, for the most part it looked pretty strong.

Sharpness seemed uniformly crisp and clear, with almost no instances of softness to be found. The image consistently appeared detailed and distinctive. Some minor jagged edges and moiré effects occurred, and I also noticed minor edge enhancement at times. The print itself showed occasional speckles and spots plus a couple of nicks, but these didn't seem significant.

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 movie presented a solid image.

Also good is the monaural soundtrack of Stand By Me, though I felt it necessary to deduct some points due to the fact it only offered one channel; mono sound is unusual for such a recent movie. Nonetheless, the quality of the audio seemed very strong. Dialogue appeared natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were crisp and clear and lacked any distortion.

Music only appeared sporadically during the film and maintains a quiet presence most of the time. In addition, much of the music came from source materials, which meant they were reproduced to sound as though they came from radios. Nonetheless, the tunes seemed acceptably smooth and well-reproduced. I didn't feel comfortable offering Stand anything higher than a "B-" simply because of the monaural nature of the sound, but rest assured that the audio seemed clear and clean throughout the film.

What did I find when I compared the picture and audio of this new 2005 Deluxe Edition of Stand By Me with the original release from 2000? They were absolutely identical. As was the case with the 35th anniversary release of Easy Rider, the Deluxe Stand simply packages the existing DVD with some new non-disc-based materials.

That means we get the same picture and audio quality as with the first release, and all the supplements on the DVD itself repeat. These start with 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 quite a few 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.

Another audio feature appears as well: we get an isolated score with just the music on it. Since Stand features such a modest score and mostly offers songs from the era, I didn't think this program was all that valuable, and the fact the music plays in mono doesn't help. In any case, it's a decent addition for those who like such things.

Next up is a featurette. Titled Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me, this 36-minute and 43-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 very 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 minor extras round out the disc. There are the usual uninformative Talent Files that appear on many Columbia-Tristar DVDs; these include extremely rudimentary details about Reiner, King, Wheaton, Phoenix, Feldman, Sutherland and O'Connell. Bonus Trailers features promos for The Karate Kid and Fly Away Home, but no ad for Stand appears. Soundtrack provides a static screenshot that tells us the soundtrack is available from Atlantic Records.

As we head to the materials added to this Deluxe Edition, we discover a CD Songtrack. This eight-song affair almost duplicates the movie’s official soundtrack album. It omits “Whispering Bells” by the Del Vikings and “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes. Why lose only two songs? Why not just put out the full soundtrack? I don’t know, but it’s an annoying alteration. At least all eight tunes are the originals; the Easy Rider “songtrack” included a few re-recorded renditions.

While the Deluxe Edition loses the old release’s leaflet, it adds a 32-page booklet. This one presents an introduction with a little about the story’s origins and the production. It also offers 1986 pressbook biographies of Reiner, King, Wheaton, Phoenix, O’Connell, Feldman, Sutherland, Dreyfuss and actor John Cusack along with 2005 “postscripts”. The booklet also includes some photos and replicas of theatrical posters. It’s a decent piece but it doesn’t add a whole lot to the package.

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 DVD provides very good picture, modest but accurate sound, and a few decent supplements. It's a solid movie that would make a nice addition to your collection.

The question becomes which version of Stand By Me to buy. If you already own the original special edition release, there’s no reason to double-dip; it doesn’t add enough to merit a repurchase. However, it might be the way to go if you don’t already have the prior disc. This one retails for only $5 more than its predecessor, and that’s not a bad price for the booklet and the CD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4166 Stars Number of Votes: 36
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