Director: Rob Reiner
There was no shortage of coming of age dramas and childhood adventure stories in the 80’s and Stand By Me is the best of both worlds.
Based on a Stephen King novella, The Body, Stand By Me revolves around four young boys who get a lead on the whereabouts of a missing body and embark on an expedition to retrieve it and claim the reward. The four lead actors of this heart-leaping coming of age adventure have got to be the most memorable preadolescent ensemble cast to date. Each one of these lads portray rather polarising characters yet all four of them are deeply identifiable. It probably helps that I’m a male myself but I daresay these characters are relatable despite their gender.
We view the narrative through the eyes of Gordie (Will Wheaton), the puny and insecure story-teller. Gordie’s best friend Chris (River Phoenix) is the alpha-male of the group who comes from a family of criminals and carries the burden of their bad reputation. Phoenix is electrifying in one of his first roles; it’s his and Wheaton’s naturalistic performances that keep the film’s heart beating.
Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell are the character actors who add colour to the group, they’re the cherries on top, the pepper in the sauce depending on what course you’re up to.
Feldman plays the eccentric and possibly the most disturbed individual of the bunch being the son of a troubled war veteran. The ‘Ringo’ of the group is Vern, the tubby one who everyone laughs at. Vern was Jerry O’Connell’s very first film role, and probably his best, and he presents an absolutely adorable, hilarious and sympathetic character. It’s funny that O’Connell is now known for playing more boyish/jockey roles, a stark contrast from his debut effort. Did his experience playing Vern perhaps scare him into becoming the type of person that he would usually be bullied by?
Everyone’s so quick to grow up they forget about the magic of being a kid, especially since we haven’t seen a great all child cast since this film…
Super 8 (2011) is the only film I can think of with such a cast and that movie is a love-letter to E.T. (1982) and Stand By Me. Childhood is one of the more fascinating walks of life to explore on film and since the early 90’s most films with a child cast have been mindless entertainment featuring annoying little shits who are often more one dimensional than Jason Statham.
Stand By Me shows us how children seem to be able to make fantastic situations out of reality. Well, why can’t grown ups do the same without being ridiculed? Watch Stand By Me to fuel your dreams.