30 Days of The Plaza, Day 19: Childhood Memories, or Why STAND BY ME Stands the Test of Time

By Thomas Drake
Contributing Writer

STAND BY ME (1986); Brand New 35mm Print; Dir: Rob Reiner; Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix and Corey Feldan; Plaza Theatre, Fri. July 6 and Sat. July 7, 7:30 p.m.; and Sun. July 8, 3 p.m.; trailer here.

Short: Vern: Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?
Teddy: Boy, you don’t know nothing! Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman’s a real guy. There’s no way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.

Medium: A coming of age story about four young men who decide to go find the body of a lost boy and become heroes. Along the way, they learn about themselves and are confronted by external hazards from nature and generic thugs.

Maximum Verbosity: For a long time, there were rumors that this was actually based on something that actually happened to Stephen King. The movie itself was based on “The Body,” a novella he wrote in 1982. It wasn’t actually true. There was actually an accusation labeled against him of plagiarism by a manuscript submitted by a fan. King denied the accusation and hasn’t read manuscripts for others since then. Now, it is possible that Stephen King stole the idea, but, quite frankly, given that he’s written 49 novels, many of which are best sellers, and most of which have sold significantly better than “The Body,” we can establish that King is not some one hit wonder that needs to steal ideas.

A lot of King’s movies have been made into movies. So what makes this one stand out? What makes STAND BY ME so exceptional that you’ll want to see a 25-year-old movie with all that’s coming out this Friday? Well, that’s an interesting question…perhaps I should say Magic? I speak not of the Magic of thunder, lightning or fireballs (or Magic Missiles into the darkness) but the Magic of Childhood. I put it on par with THE GOONIES in terms of what it means to be a kid, the wonder thereof, etc. But here’s the difference: Do you remember that ubiquitous Facebook meme where people put “What I think of” “What My Mom Thinks of” that ended with “What it Really Is”? THE GOONIES is “What I thought of my Childhood” whereas STAND BY ME is what it actually is.

Sure, there are dramatic moments, but there are also anticlimactic ones. The great quest to become heroes doesn’t go anywhere. But every single one of them comes out of the experience with something greater, something that helps them move on. It is also a parable told by the storyteller character, Young Gordie (Wil Weaton), who also learns the value of establishing a good relationship with his sons.

So there you have it. There is a magic in the theater, and if you’re looking to recapture something about what it was like to be a kid; not the romanticized world that never was, but the gritty adventure that you and maybe some of your friends had that you remember that you had to be there to understand. On top of everything else, it also helps that the acting is fantastic and the story is really good. It captures the visceral reality merged with cinematic fantasticness.

Go and see this movie.

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