Stand By Me is perhaps one of the best coming-of-age movies of all time. Rob Reiner’s exacting approach to the 1950s perhaps has had more of a direct effect on those that have lived through the era, but nonetheless as a child of the 1980’s I could immediately identify with the main protagonists when I first watched this film as a teenager and time has done little to lessen that effect.
The movie’s quartet of best friends – Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Vern (Jerry O’Connell) and Teddy (Corey Feldman) – take a two day journey along the train tracks from their local town in order to witness first hand the body of a contemporary who none of them knew.
The journey encompasses the issues most relevant to young boys of that age (namely a spirit of one-up-man-ship to everything they do, the discovery of swearing for effect and an emerging awareness of the opposite sex – here Annette Funicello from The Mickey Mouse Club and her breasts) but it also mines a darker heart with the character of Ace played by Kiefer Sutherland and Gordie’s invisibility at home due to his more successful brother’s untimely death.
This new 25th Anniversary Edition has been carefully worked on, unsurprisingly perhaps when Reiner claims it to be his most important and relevant work. Wheaton and Feldman join Reiner for a video commentary which is both illuminating and entertaining for both the casual viewer and the avid fan. It seems Feldman is cornering the market in nostalgic video commentaries, taking part in one of the first for the DVD market with The Goonies in 2001.
The typical waning of the careers of the childhood stars does little to dampen proceedings – Wheaton went onto Star Trek: The Next Generation but famously jacked it all in to be a full-time father and familiar face on the celebrity blogging and poker scene. Feldman, or The Reverend Corey Feldman to give him his full moniker, is happy to star in direct-to-video sequels of his greatest hits of yesteryear, O’Connell still works frequently and married the actress/model Rebecca Romijn which is the cause of much entertaining banter on the video commentary and the tragic short life of River Phoenix is so well documented to be irrelevant of mention.
The movie itself is the most important part of proceedings and this new Blu-ray transfer is a definite improvement on previous releases, but is perhaps a little too soft around the edges to call it a must buy (maybe faithfully keeping to the waxy cinematography of the original, but the much mooted “4K restoration” is hardly as startling as the recent Manhunter release). The video commentary will sway your judgement one way or another if you are a fan and all of the extras of the previous releases are present if you are a completist, but the movie as a centrepiece is a timeless classic of a bygone creative era lost to a shameful focus on the bottom line and the opening weekend figures.
Released on Blu-ray on Monday 8th August 2011 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.