Saturday, August 23, 2008

Movies: Stand By Me

"Stand By Me" is a pretty faithful adaptation of "The Body," a novella by Stephen King. As in the novella, the film follows four boys as they venture off in search of the body of a dead kid. Along the way, there are moments of humor, drama, and tension, with a coming-of-age riff that stands up on its own, rather than being merely a rehash of other works.

Rob Reiner has had a checkered directorial history, with some spectacular highs ("This Is Spinal Tap," "Misery") and some recent colossal misfires ("Alex & Emma", "Rumor Has It..."). Here, he wisely chucked his own preferences for the sake of the story - the main characters smoke cigarettes in the very first scene, despite Reiner's famous antismoking bias. It must have taken a deft touch working with this many young actors, including Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell, but everything comes out pretty well.

I'd never seen this movie, and I'm sure it's seldom shown on television. Maybe it's the censors; "Stand By Me" is rated R because many of the characters spout foul language. Like "The Princess Bride" (another Reiner adaptation), the pace is brisk, the characters are memorable, and everything is coated in that halcyon late '50s style. The only flaw is the iffy ending (the one big change from the novella, not coincidentally), but overall it's a fine movie.

Rating: 9/10


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