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Stand By Me

Director: Rob Reiner; Stars: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell; Release Date: March 22, 2005

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Stand By This One

  • Dec 29, 2009
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In 1982, Stephen King published a collection of short stories and called it Different Seasons to show the world he could write about much more than things that go bump in the night.  Within Different Seasons three of them were adapted into films.  There was Apt Pupil in 1998, The Shawshank Redemption in 1994 (which went on to become one of the most memorable movies ever) but before those two there was Stand By Me.  Which is based on a short story called "The Body."  Of all the stories found within Different Seasons, The Body was the best of the lot.  Stand By Me isn't the best adaptation of Stephen King's works (that honor belongs to The Shawshank Redemption) but King has often stated that it's his personal favorite.  It is, without question, one of the best adaptations of any of his works. 

Stand By Me begins with an older man named Gordie Lechance who has just read in the papers that his best friend Chris Chambers has been murdered.  He's a full grown man but he takes a moment to remember his friend and then remember an experience they had as children--the story in and of itself.  Within it a young Gordie (played by Wil Wheaton) is hanging with his friends Chris (River Phoenix) and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman).  The three are busy playing a game of cards when suddenly their friend Vern Tessio (Jerry O' Connell) shows up excited.  Vern tells them all about a dead body out in the woods.  He only knows because he heard his brother's friends talking about it.  The four boys then get an idea.  This kid has been missing for some time.  And they soon decide to take a little adventure to find this body.  Finding it could make them heroes.  All they can think about is the idea that their picture could be in the paper and the fame it can give them.  Telling a convenient lie to their parents they have the weekend out to themselves and are able to go for a little bit.  The body is along the tracks and so they stick to it.  Along the way, however, they come across some interesting sights including a junkyard with a crazy old man and a small pond filled with leeches.  Along the way, however, the boys mature and grow.

Part of what makes Stand By Me fun actually is the characters.  The movie isn't too long but each of the characters has their own sort of personality and way that they grow about them.  There is Gordie who is living a world in the shadow of his brother who died.  He wants to be a writer, but isn't sure that's what his folks really want from him.  His brother was an athlete and someone he looked up to.  Chris, on the other hand, comes from what is widely considered a shady family.  Chris is dealing with the struggles of being a good kid from a bad family.  Ted has an imagination about World War II while Vern is just the all around shy guy.  Where as King's novella focused quite a bit on Chris, using Gordie as nothing more than a narrator to drive the story forward (meaning Chris is the main character) the movie puts Gordie front and center here.  While Ted and Vern don't play nearly as big a role here, the movie doesn't exactly put them aside.  Those two have the least at stake, though.  Nevertheless the cast is rather likeable and they give some good performances.

Stand By Me is mostly fun, though.  It's a simple story written by an author who based much of it on actual events.  During the screening Stephen King actually had to take a moment to collect himself because he said it was close to what happened during his childhood.  And Stand By Me doesn't mess around with the emotions.  There are certain moments that are quite emotional, brought on in part by the young actors doing a fairly good job and by Rob Reiner doing a fairly good job as well.  He manages to bring out a few emotions within his actors.

A major theme of the film is innocence in and of itself.  The transformation of Gordie and his friends is clearly seen by the last moments once they return to town.  The movie doesn't make it quite so obvious but it's not easy to miss either.  It's just a simple story, but it has some good writing locked within it.  We're dealing with adolescent boys who aren't quite old enough to take that interest in girls, but they are old enough that they're on the thin line between childhood innocence and adolescent. 

For those who get antsy about adaptations following the source material... you'll be happy to know that Stand By Me sticks to the story it was based off of rather well.  Of all of the adaptations of King's work, he has often been the most impressed with Stand By Me despite some of the changes from the novella to the movie  It's his favorite one.  For Stephen King fans it's one of the adaptations you really have to see, but it's definitely enhanced by the book.  It doesn't just make a good story, though, it makes a good film.  Much of the directing is done fairly well (although Rob Reiner himself isn't actually the best director) and the pacing his spot on.  The movie neither feels to short nor too long.  The fact that in such a short time we come to really see the characters change is also a really nice thing.  This is the type of coming-of-age story that you rarely see anymore.  It doesn't concern itself so much with sex, drugs and alcohol, but rather an experience that the boys go through that is rather unique, and yet is surprisingly very human in its portrayal.  It's "R" Rating comes primarily from the use of language, but there's hardly anything here that someone in their teens won't recognize.  For the most part the rating is a little harsh for a movie that isn't even that violent.

Nevertheless, it's a fairly good film.  One that is definitely worth watching at least once.  Thanks to good performance, strong writing and even pacing, Stand By Me is a movie to Stand By.

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January 27, 2010
Nice review Sean. Always thought this was an extremely entertaining and offbeat flick. One of Rob Reiner's best.
January 14, 2010
This is where King works for me. As a writer of weird fiction he leaves me cold, but his straight stuff can be exceptional. If nothing else, this film will stand forever giving hope to chubby boys everywhere--you too can grow up to be Jerry O'Connell.
December 31, 2009
Great review, Other-Sean! Can I just say once and for all that the scene in which Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman argue about who would win in a fight between Superman and Might Mouse may be one of my favorites. Awesome movie. Wish there were more like it. It's hard to believe that this got an R rating though. Whose idea was that?
More Stand by Me reviews
review by . May 19, 2009
Stand By Me i a pedestrian adaptation of the novella THE BODY. The direction by Rob Reiner was real good by the script was bad and it was too white bread for my taste. That's what I liked about the story, anyone could relate to it but when it's milked through by a hack writer and pacified for mainstream audiences it becomes bland and generic. But the acting form the kids was real good and it's watchable but not as great as soon many people make it out to be.    STAND BY ME follows …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


Based on Stephen King?s novella THE BODY, director Rob Reiner's STAND BY ME is the disarmingly tender and subtly sublime story of four kids on the precipice of early adulthood who embark upon a quest. There?s Gordie (Wil Wheaton), the intelligent, creative one with the obviously bright future. His best buddy, Chris (River Phoenix), hardens his image in order to hide the pain from the physical abuse he endures at home, all the while harboring the hope of escaping that image. Rounding out the foursome are Vern (Jerry O'Connell), the pudgy tagalong, and Teddy (Corey Feldman), a loyal and funny but troubled kid with a death wish.

When the four boys hear about a dead body 20 miles down the railroad tracks from their small Oregon town, they clandestinely set upon the unwieldy journey to lay eyes on this rare find. Amid numerous misadventures, Gordie, Chris, Vern, and Teddy savor what may be their last chance to revel in the simple life of children; around the corner is a future that could tear them ...
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Movies, Stephen King, Movie Adaptations, Rob Reiner, Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman


Release Date: 1986
MPAA Rating: R

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