The four kids are obviously the centerpiece of the movie and you couldn’t ask for a more perfect cast to anchor the story. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and a chubby Jerry O’Connell share such a brilliant dynamic in STAND BY ME, with a natural chemistry that really suggests a lifelong friendship and personalities that compliment each other. They come off like real kids (even down to the cursing), which makes it easy to relate to every character, no matter which of their personas you personally connect to. Each child actor does a great job with some tough situations, both physically and emotionally, but River Phoenix is the stand out playing the “bad” kid who’s fallen in to a vicious circle of expectations and genetics. The supporting cast also boasts a villainous Kiefer Sutherland in one of his first roles, Richard Dreyfuss bookending the film as the older Gordie, and a young John Cusack who does a lot with a little,
Rob Reiner may have lost his magic touch with his recent filmography, but STAND BY ME is the director at the top of his game in the 1980s. Aside from getting some great performances from his young actors, Reiner also balances a very tricky tone. There’s definitely an ominous vibe throughout, with the gun, the dead body and Jack Nitzsche’s score, but there’s also a lighthearted adventurous spirit to it as the boys go on their journey. The entire thing is wrapped up in a healthy sense of nostalgia, both for the time period and the period of adolescence. And for as much as Vern uses the word “sincerely,” there is a lot of sincerity in this movie, be it in memorable moments like the whimsical pie eating contest to the suspenseful train chase to the quiet conversation over the campfire. The best compliment I can pay STAND BY ME is how substantial it feels as a film. At little more than 88 minutes, you really get involved with the characters and their lives, more so than movies twice as long.
25 Years Later: This brand new Blu-Ray exclusive feature captures the moment Reiner, Wheaton and Feldman meet since the movie. The trio then record a picture in picture video commentary for the movie. There’s a lot of delightful reminiscing and stories shared by everyone, and they have no problem making fun of “that fat little kid who married Rebecca Romijn.” This is a fun track, especially for fans of the film, but it really didn’t need to be a video commentary. The image of the three just sitting there doesn’t add much.
Commentary by Rob Reiner: While the other track is more nostalgic, this one actually presents more “real” info about the production and Reiner’s influence for the story. Though some info is repeated from the previous commentary, Reiner holds up fine on his own.
Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me: This feature, well over half an hour, starts off with Stephen King discussing where the story comes from and giving his personal perspective on the film adaptation, before breaking off with Reiner and other cast interviews. Informative, but not terribly exciting.
”Stand by Me” Music Video: This goofy 80s piece features a young Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix dancing alongside Ben E. King.
Previews and a Movie IQ Trivia Track.
Extra Tidbit: I wonder if young fat Jerry O’Connell ever dreamed he would marry Rebecca Romijn one day,