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Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary Edition

by on March 23, 2011
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It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since “Stand By Me,” one of the great films of the 1980s, first arrived in theaters. Director Rob Reiner‘s film gets a worthy anniversary Blu ray release, which, while relatively lean, contains some tremendous gems.

The story is simple enough (and well-known enough that I’ll go light on analysis): In 1959, four boys (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman), on the cusp of middle school and seeming to know they’re in the midst of their real last hurrah before life splits them up, embark on a trek too see the body of a local boy whose disappearance has gripped their small town of Castle Rock, Maine.

Along the way, the boys talk about life, growing up and feeling repressed by bullies (led by Kiefer Sutherland) and family, who alternately abuse or ignore them.

Arguably Reiner’s greatest film, “Stand By Me” is a haunting film that when viewed years later takes on added significance given the death of Phoenix, whose character is the linchpin to this film. A wonderful video commentary included with the Blu-ray features Reiner, Wheaton, and Feldman discussing the film and lamenting Phoenix’s death, with Feldman admitting he regrets not being able to reach out to him on his substance-abuse problems, then later discussing how he and Phoenix met older kids during shooting (when Feldman and Phoenix each had their first experiences with alcohol).

There is palpable emotion in the commentary when Reiner admits that he is the saddest when thinking about Phoenix while watching the “milk money” scene. Then when they fall silent, the expressions on their faces say plenty.

Other extras include an audio commentary from Reiner ported over from the previous DVD release and a making-of featurette. Deleted scenes and maybe a more comprehensive reunion would have been nice, but what is included is meaty and rich and doesn’t feel hollow like extras on a lot of other releases.

Film: 5 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps