Combustible Celluloid
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With: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack, Richard Dreyfuss
Written by: Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans, based on a story by Stephen King
Directed by: Rob Reiner
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 89
Date: 07/08/1986

Stand by Me (1986)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Wagon Training

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted from a Stephen King short story ("The Body"), this film downplays horror elements and emerges as one of the best coming-of-age stories ever made. Nerdy, skinny Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton) misses his dead brother, and his life at home is a living hell. His only refuge is his best friend Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), the town outcast.

When the friends hear about a dead body deep in the woods, they enlist pals Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) and embark upon a two-day hiking trip to find it. Director Rob Reiner keeps most of the focus on the four friends, developing a realistic (profanity-filled) relationship between them. Their conversation drifts from the matters at hand to things like PEZ and stories of pie-eating contests (the movie has one of the best vomiting scenes ever filmed).

Reiner deftly switches from comedy to poignancy, as when Gordie spies a deer in the early morning light and decides to keep the moment all to himself. Kiefer Sutherland plays an older bully who also seeks the body, John Cusack appears in flashback as Gordie's brother, and Richard Dreyfuss narrates as the grown-up Gordie, now a writer.

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