Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary Edition

The following post is by Lindsey Kalenborn (lindseykal on our forums & @lindseykal28 on Twitter)

Twenty-five years ago Rob Reiner released a movie about four 12 year old boys walking the railroad tracks in search of a dead body. Their goal is modest, all they want is to find the missing child so they can be on the news and get their picture in the paper. Along the way they lose their innocence, come to terms with their individual grief, and leave their childhoods behind forever.

Stand by Me is one of the only films that I‘m able to enjoy as an adult just as much as when I was in grade school. It never really ages. In fact, as time goes on it only gets better because the movie contains timeless truths whether it be 1959, 1986, or 2011.  Here are a few:

Lesson One: When the horror elements are removed Stephen King is a surprisingly touching and perceptive author. The Shawshank Redemption continues to top "The IMDB Top 250" as one of the most beloved movies of all time. Although The Green Mile’s script contains some supernatural elements, all of that is forgotten when I’m trying not to cry during John Coffey’s last walk. As much as I love a good King scare-fest I wish he’d create some more realistic fare on occasion.

Lesson Two: Mess with Kiefer Sutherland at your own risk. The man is Jack Bauer for God’s sake. I’ve seen him torture his own brother armed with nothing more than a plastic bag. Do you really think he can’t clobber the likes of Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman? Please.

Lesson Three: Sometimes the Yankee hat that your dead brother gave you gets taken by Ace Merrill and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not fair, and it’s definitely not right. But sometimes these things happen and you are randomly squashed down by fate. Try to tell yourself it’s not your fault and move on.

By the way, I like to imagine that since Ace hands the Yankee cap to Eyeball later on when the movie’s over, Chris sneaks it out of Eyeball’s room and gets the hat back to Gordie. Yes, I know I’ve over thought this. Shut up.

Lesson Four:  Don’t despair if you’re the chubby one in your gang.  You can pull a Jerry O’Connell, get into shape, get cast in several motion pictures, and land yourself Rebecca Romijn for a wife. If all else fails there's always Plan B; getting revenge by fixing a local pie eating contest and create a complete and total barf-o-rama (shine on Lardass, you crazy diamond). It’s easy to dismiss Vern Tessio, but the ensemble wouldn’t be complete without his dim and earnest presence. Plus, he can always be counted on to bring the comb.

Lesson Five: All sons need their fathers.  It’s hard to tell which character has it rougher at home. Teddy’s dad is in a mental institution. Chris’s father is a drunk, causing him to be pigeon-holed as a bad seed before he‘s turned 13. Gordie’s father virtually ignores him, infecting Gordie with the idea that “the good son” died. Not only is he grieving his brother, but he feels unwanted as well. These are boys with real problems and they have to look to their friends to love and protect them because they’re not getting it at home.

Lesson Six: Be wary of shortcuts. Whether it’s jumping into a pond full of leeches or an unexpected train on a trellis, there are sometimes consequences to cutting corners.

Lesson Seven: Stand by Me had the ability to predict the future. The epilogues are all eerily close to what happened to the real actors. Gordie LaChance grew up to become a writer. Well Wil Wheaton is practically a professional blogger these days, and much more a writer than an actor.

Teddy DuChamp failed to get into the Army, spent some time in jail, and is now doing odd jobs around Castle Rock. Corey Feldman failed to transition to an adult movie star, got in trouble with drugs and alcohol, and now does odd jobs in Hollywood. Vern doesn’t really fit, unless you count having a slow but steady career in Hollywood the equivalent to being a fork lift operator.

River Phoenix is the most obvious and tragic parallel. He was an incredible, raw, natural talent that burst off the screen. When he died of a drug overdose at 23, the acting world lost something that could never be replaced. When Chris Chambers fades away at the end the double-meaning is chilling to watch.

Stand by Me has something for everyone.  It’s a minor masterpiece and if you haven’t seen it yet the new 25th Anniversary blu-ray disc is the perfect opportunity to catch up on what you’ve been missing.

The movie’s final line says it all. “I never had friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Jesus, does anyone?”

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