Stand By Me is a memorable 1986 coming of age film and an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Body. Directed by Rob Reiner, starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell. I was not born in the 80s or late 70s, but I can tell that this is the type of movie kids loved growing up and consider it today a childhood classic. Surprisingly, it’s an R rated one instead of a PG-13 as one could believe.
A few spoilers ahead !
This is the adventure of four friends going out to find the body of a missing 12 year old, whom was found by one of their older brothers. The story is set in the 1950s. Life was much simpler back then. Kids would meet up after school and spend all day outside, returning home with their clothes dirty, the sign of a great day out exploring or just having fun. I smiled at seeing them in their treehouse. I remember having a treehouse once upon a time when I was around 8 years old. All this before the age of electronics and, “Get down from there! You’re gonna hurt yourself.” Getting hurt was part of our childhood. We learned from our adventures and experiences, much like we do nowadays as adults.
Director Rob Reiner did an excellent job picking these four unique kids for his film’s roles. I instantly liked each one of them, as they each reminded me of kids I used to know. The gang is composed by Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern. Gordie (Wil Wheaton) is a creative writer, known for his great stories by his friends. He recently lost his older brother, his role model, in a car accident and can’t get the love he wants from his father. Chris (River Phoenix), the leader of the gang and Gordie’s best friend, comes from a bad family and because of that is labeled as a troublemaker. Although he has that vibe, deep down he’s a good kid. There are many examples throughout the film where he shows peace and love to the situation. Then we have Teddy (Corey Feldman), another type of troublemaker who comes from a bad family as well, who’s father nearly killed him a couple of times. Despite this, Teddy respects his father for, as he often mentions, “… stormed the beaches at Normandy.” He may get out of control sometimes, but he has his friends to calm him down and be there for him. To me he kind of looks like a young Harrison Ford with glasses. Lastly we have Vern (Jerry O’Connell). This is the type of kid who is almost always in any group of friends. He’s the one who’s scared of everything, perhaps the chubby one, and could often be wondered as how he became part of the group, but like the rest, he has a good heart and the others appreciate him being there.
The film has a great track listing from the 50s which helps set the summer adventure mood. I still have Lollipop by The Chordettes playing in my head after recently watching this movie.
One of my favorite scenes is where they discuss what kind of an animal Goofy is by the campfire. It’s a funny scene. Gordie asks it, next kid talks about a new subject, then another kid goes back to the Goofy question, different subject again, then back to Goofy and so on.
This is a coming of age film. These four boys are pre-teen and will start junior high soon. This is when they end up being in different classes and just like any school experience, it often can lead to them spending less time together and they know this. They’re nervous about what it will be like. These kids haven’t started talking about girls yet, so they’re at that point.
I believe they made the ending well. Gordie went ahead and became a successful writer, Chris did his best through college and became a lawyer. Although it’s unfortunate he died later on; but he died using his good heart. Two men arguing in a bar and Chris, the peacemaker, just wanted to help. Teddy, tried to follow his dad’s steps by joining the military but wasn’t approved because of eyesight and his hearing in one burned ear. He stayed back home in Castle Rock doing odd jobs. Vern turned out pretty much like we all would imagine. He stayed out of trouble, did good in life, got married and had kids. It saddens me a little to think how the best of friends lose contact with each other. I know I don’t see much of my childhood friends but we all love and think of each other. (If you’re reading this… I miss you!)
This is a great film! A gem of its time. Shame it took me til the year 2015 to find out and watch it. I would have loved to have shared this film with my friends growing up. You know a movie is good when you research about it after and look up all the child actors to see how they look today. It saddened me to find out about River Phoenix. It also surprised me that his younger brother is Joaquin Phoenix since they don’t really look alike. Anyway, here’s what the actors look like today:
Thanks for reading my review!
– Nick Andersen