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STAND BY ME, 1986
Movie Review

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STAND BY ME, MOVIE POSTERSTAND BY ME, 1986
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Rob Reiner
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland and Richard Dreyfuss
Review by Andrew S. Rockoff


SYNOPSIS:

A coming of age story set in the summer of 1959, Labor Day in Castle Rock, Oregon. Four young friends set out on a journey to find the dead body of a classmate. What they found, besides the body, was an experience that made their friendship even stronger and a bond that would last a lifetime.

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REVIEW:

Based on the novella “The Body” by Stephen King, “Stand by Me” is a coming of age film that was brilliantly done by director Rob Reiner.  Although the style of King’s books differs from Reiner’s movies, much of the premise and characters remain the same.  While King is known more for his thrillers and Sci-Fi, Reiner is known to be much more light and humorous.  The combination of the two made for an excellent film.

Although “Stand by Me” was one of Reiner’s earlier films, years later it would be recognized with some of his other work by the Director’s Guild and was the film that Reiner considered to be his “masterpiece.” Reiner had directed a couple of films before this one, but this movie was his first real success. The film received a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture for a Drama and also received a Golden Globe Award for Best Director. This was one of those movies that many people could relate to through elements like the characters, the music and various experiences.

The film opens with The Writer (Richard Dreyfuss) sitting in his car, staring out at an open field. As the camera starts to zoom in, you begin to hear The Writer talk, as a voice over. “I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being.” Although Dreyfuss wasn’t Reiner’s first choice to play this roll, in hindsight he was in fact the perfect choice for the part, a great speaking voice to help navigate us through this adventure of four young friends.

This entire film is done as a flashback of the Writers memories from the events that happened Labor Day weekend in 1959. Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) are playing cards while Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton) is reading what looks to be a comic book in their tree house just trying to pass the time. Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell) is the chubby friend that is running to the tree house to tell the guys about what he just over heard from his older brother and his brother’s friend. After the guys give Vern a hard time with the password to the tree house and finally let him in, Vern is trying to catch his breath and tells the guys what he overheard but they keep interrupting and joking with Vern. Finally he says, “you guys want to go see a dead body.” Everyone stopped joking because they knew exactly who he was talking about. The four boys decide unanimously to go. The next morning after they each told their parents they are camping out at the others house, they set off on their journey.

This whole thing started when Vern’s brother and his friend boosted a car and accidently found the body of Ray Brower. They had been trying to decide on whether to go to the cops or just let it go. But as they were talking about it, Vern was under the porch looking for his penny collection that he buried weeks earlier, he couldn’t help but overhear this conversation about the body. They decided to keep it to themselves for the time being, but Vern couldn’t keep it to himself.

As the boys began their quest to find the body, Vern’s brother and friend couldn’t keep their mouths shut anymore either. They are part of the town gang which is lead by Ace (Keifer Sutherland) who thinks they should go find the body because there might be a reward for it. After Ace convinces his crew to go look for the body, they all get in their cars and start driving.

Meanwhile, Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern continue on their way and have to face some roadblocks along the way. They are walking through a junkyard when they encounter their first obstacle. The owner of the junkyard Milo, sees the boys and sic’s his dog on them. As they are running, Milo says “Chopper, sic’em boy”, but what the boys heard was “Chopper! Sic balls!” After getting away from Chopper the boys continue on. Gordie, who is the writer when he was younger, was always interested in telling and writing stories. When the boys make camp, all the guys ask Gordie to tell a story. It is apparent what Gordie really wants to do with his life, even though his brother was a big football star. When the story is over they all take turns watching guard till morning and then the boys continue on for homestretch.

After two days of walking, one night in the woods and a countless number of obstacles, the boys finally found the body of Ray Brower. Just a few minutes later, Ace shows up with his gang. As Gordie steps aside the others are arguing with Ace and his gang about who is taking the body back, until finally, Gordie takes out the handgun that Chris brought and shoots it up in the air. He tells everyone that no one is taking the body. Gordie keeps the gun pointed at Ace for a few moments as Ace begins to walk away with his crew. The scene fades as everyone leaves and the Writer’s voice takes over to finish the movie. They decided to make an anonymous phone call to the police, telling them exactly where the body was.

Reiner did a phenomenal job with this film and he was right to call it his masterpiece. In the end, there was much to learn from this film about friendship, loyalty, dealing with ones fears. As I left you with some words at the end of my last review, I can’t help but do the same now. The Writer, “I was living in a small town in Oregon called Castle Rock. There were only twelve hundred and eighty-one people. But to me, it was the whole world.”

Rating: 4 ¾ stars out of 5

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