Stand by Me

Stand by Me ★★★½

Rob Reiner's 1986 classic Stand by Me isn't something I would normally be a fan of yet there was a certain speciality expressed by Reiner and the rest of the crew that made this film so great. The premise made me extremely excited for Stand by Me, not to mention the fact that this film was based on a Stephen King novel. I mean, a group of kids searching for a dead body while learning more about each other sounds like a fantastic idea but I will note that this ended up being a lot more generic and childish than I expected. I tend to hate or at the very least find coming-of-age films to be just okay and with Stand by Me's predictability, cheesiness, and stereotypical characters, the film was certainly hindered. It also uses the nostalgia factor heavily though even if I wasn't a kid in the 50s nor the 80s, I did feel nostalgic because I think we've all had those great summers with our friends when we were pre-teens. Yet that doesn't excuse the film's neediness of nostalgia.

Probably my biggest problem, other than the stereotypes I see in every coming-of-age film and hate (for example: Vern, the fat kid, just has to be this scared guy who's the butt-of-the-jokes), would have to be the antagonists. They're just laughably and stupidly awful. No depth to them and just your average teenage bullies from the 50s.

So it's pretty clear that I had a fair share of problems with Stand by Me. My excitement dipped as soon as the film began as I realised it wasn't the dark and emotional mystery with amazing character growth that I was expecting and was instead a generic coming-of-age movie but there's tons of positives that I haven't even begun to mention. Definitely the most notable would have to be the impeccable child performances from the main cast. The late River Phoenix especially impressed me with his deep and heartbreaking performance as Chris Chambers. And then there's all of the lovely technical aspects and a great sense of nostalgia which I may have said is a flaw of sorts but at the same time it's also a sort of strength. Also, I can't forget about that amazing song by Ben E. King used at the end credits. To be honest, the entire ending just made me very emotional. It felt emotionally manipulative but it worked.

In a way, Stand by Me reminded me of Terrence Malick's debut Badlands. Most likely because both films are set in the 50s and they have similar settings and cinematography (though Badlands has admittedly much much better camera work). As for director Rob Reiner, he really reminds me of Steven Spielberg. Both filmmakers have films that are exceedingly sentimental, cheesy, and nostalgic. You can also tell when their films were made (Stand by Me feels like a 80s movie, The Terminal feels like a 2000s movie, etc). I do prefer Spielberg by quite a bit and even if I've only seen 3 of Reiner's films, I highly doubt he'll overtake Spielberg for me. Just some points I thought I should mention.

Overall, Stand by Me is a great film deserving of its praise. I believe it's quite flawed and not exactly deserving of its very high average rating but with tons of unforgettable positives and a special loving charm and heartfulness from Reiner and the cast and crew, I couldn't help but love this film.

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