When four 12-year-olds – the smart kid, the tough kid, the fat kid and the crazy kid – go tramping off through the woods to see the body of a dead boy (who has been killed by a speeding train) the bonds between them develop and break along the way. It’s touching but not mushy.
The year is 1959. The town of Castle Rock, Oregon, is so boring that the four young kids hide out in a treehouse smoking, swearing, playing cards, and comparing the size of each other’s dicks.
Tough guy Chris (River Phoenix) is considered a juvenile delinquent because he stole the school milk money. Teddy (Corey Feldman) is an eccentric and loud boy with a quick turn of phrase who worships his father despite evidence of abuse. Vern (Jerry O’Connell) is on the way to becoming the fat man in a circus sideshow.
The central kid, Gordie (Will Wheaton) who grows up to be the writer (Richard Dreyfuss), has a father who hasn’t paid any attention to him since the day he ate laundry bleach under the kitchen sink.
Although nothing of any consequence happens to anybody in Stand By Me the kid with the big imagination passes the time by telling the other kids stories.
The older boys in the town have a gang led by the town bully, Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) and amuse themselves by knocking people’s mailboxes off their fences from car windows with baseball bats and terrorising the younger kids.
Based on a short story (The Body) by the prolific Stephen King – who publishes everything but his grocery list and calls it literature – Stand By Me is a “coming of age” movie.
The situations are dreary, the kids’ adventures aren’t particularly imaginative (they fall into a swamp and get covered with leeches), and in the last two reels, director Rob Reiner switches to some familiar teenage moralising in which the characters are exhorted to believe in themselves.
Stand By Me does, however, contain arguably the best vomit scene in living memory . . .
“Suddenly Lardass opened his mouth. And before Bill Travis knew it, he was covered with five pies of used blueberries. The women in the audience screamed. Boss Man Bob Cormier took one look at Bill Travis and barfed on Principal Wiggins. Principal Wiggins barfed on the lumberjack that was sitting next to him. Mayor Grundy barfed on his wife’s tits.
But when the smell hit the crowd, that’s when Lardass’s plan really started to work. Girlfriends barfed on boyfriends. Kids barfed on their parents. A fat lady barfed in her purse. The Donnelley twins barfed on each other, and the Women’s Auxiliary barfed all over the Benevolent Order of Antelopes. And Lardass just sat back and enjoyed what he’d created: A complete and total barfarama”.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”