Stand By Me

Deliverance for juniors, with a gang of four boys tramping off to test their emerging teenhood in the Oregon woods of the 1950s. The boys face up to a lot of dangers—from nature, from an older gang, from themselves—and you only wish that director Rob Reiner had shown the same kind of fortitude. The social-bonding/camaraderie theme (the unacknowledged subtext of his earlier This Is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing) seems a natural for him, but without his comic underpinnings (there’s only a crude pie-eating fantasy as comic security) Reiner seems lost in his own cinematic wilderness—button-down careful, almost afraid to move. His only storytelling strategy involves crosscutting from one talking head to another, and he leaves too many literary ends dangling from the Stephen King novella on which this 1989 film is based. Still, there are a few modest pluses: Kiefer Sutherland’s young-tough portrayal, some postcard pretty landscapes, and a particularly memorable scene on a railroad trestle.