Stand By Me (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Back in 1986, when the world was still reeling from “Top Gun”, a little movie about four teenage boys came out. Based on a novella by the one and only Stephen King, who was known mainly for his horror novels, “Stand By Me” became an instant hit/classic. Directed by the one and only Rob Reiner, who has quite an impressive resume himself (This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride and A Few Good Men to name a few), the story was not at all like any of King’s other works. “Stand By Me” featured four generally unknown actors in Wil Wheaton, who went onto star in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Corey Feldman, one of the infamous “Corey’s” who has been in and out of trouble with the law, but at this time was just beginning to come into his own. Jerry O’Connell, who has just recently hit it big with his part in “Scream 2” and the sleeper hit TV show, “Sliders” and…River Phoenix. Phoenix was probably the most ironic part of “Stand By Me”, even now more so than then. It was Phoenix’s tragic death on Halloween in 1993 that he overdosed on drugs, and the character he played echoed what his real life was like.

The story was based on the memory of Gordie (Wil Wheaton and Richard Dreyfuss as an adult), who is thinking back to his favorite Summer. A Summer when his friends were still friends, a Summer when his brother had died and a Summer that was the last real time he had with his friends. Reading in the paper that his friend, Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) had just been killed, he thinks back to a time in his life that was special. Chris had come from a rough family, and was never really given a break. He had to work twice as hard to earn the same amount of respect that everyone else did, and that made him a better person. Word from Vern (Jerry O’Connell) is that a boy who has been missing for three days, has been killed and that his body is off the train tracks about 20 miles outside of town. Never having seen a dead body, the four boys head off on foot to see it firsthand. Of course, no one knows that they’re going, as the information has been overheard by Vern and the local gang of thugs is off to see the same thing…and of course take credit for finding the body. As their journey progresses, the four seem to bond in a way that they had not before. Gordie, the most creative of the group is a writer and is used as a source for entertainment, though his home life is not the same since his brother has died. Teddy (Corey Feldman) has dreams of going into the Army, but is forced to deal with the fact that he will probably never get that chance. He is also saddled with the fact that the person he admires most, his father, is abusive and not all there mentally.

It’s at this time that we see that the boys won’t ever be the same after their trip. It’s not the fact that seeing a dead body changes them for life, but the story is told in a first person retrospective; and we are told that this time was the best of his life. While minor squabbles and breakdowns by most of the major characters come out, “Stand By Me” is mostly something almost anyone can relate to. Rob Reiner’s direction is superb and the performances by the actors, as young as they are, are very good. As mentioned before, the most ironic thing about the entire movie (and this is echoed in the commentary) is the fact that River Phoenix’s character dies in the end (I’m not giving anything away, the movie starts with a front page headline about it). Though a short movie, “Stand By Me” will undoubtedly withstand the test of time, as most movies of this caliber do.

Video: How does it look?

Time has been kind to “Stand By Me” as the 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer shows. Colors are deeper and richer, though there are still a few scenes that appear to be the tiniest bit washed out. Detail has been improved as has the contrast. Truthfully the movie never looked bad, but after seeing the standard DVD not too long ago and comparing it with this, there’s certainly an improvement. While the upgrade in picture might not be quite enough to get you to re-purchase this disc, it won’t hurt matters any.

Audio: How does it sound?

More so than the picture is the new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is quite an improvement over the previous Dolby Digital track. The movie is littered with songs from the early 60’s such as “Lollipop.” Dialogue is crisp and clean as well. The rear speakers don’t play as much of a part in the movie that I thought they would, but there are some memorable scenes (such as when they’re running from the train) that really make use of the new mix. While not so hard on the ears that you’ll turn the volume down, “Stand By Me” has been given a pretty nice upgrade in the audio department.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A special edition of this movie came out on standard DVD in 2006 to celebrate the film’s twentieth anniversary. Included in that disc was a commentary track by director Rob Reiner. This same track has been included on this Blu-ray, but we’re also treated to an exclusive picture-in-picture commentary track with actors Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and director Rob Reiner. It’s a very good track, chock full of information and tidbits about the movie, the shoot and the late River Phoenix. Also included is a featurette “The Summer of ‘Stand By Me'” is more than your EPK as we get author Stephen King talking about the novel and its subsequent adaptation to the big screen. It’s a good little featurette. Also included is Sony’s MovieIQ with real time data and facts about the film.

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