David Mickey Evans' follow-up to his coming-of-age baseball picture THE SANDLOT (1993) is more accurately a retread, since it tells virtually the same story with a different bunch of youngsters. But Evans successfully infuses new life into the familiar story of misfit youngsters banding together in the face of adversity, and this seamless sequel could make anyone yearn to relive the hazy summer days of childhood. The connecting link is Johnnie Smalls (James Willson), younger brother of the first film's Scottie Smalls; he delivers the backstory and narrates from the perspective of adulthood (Evans supplies the voice) a la TV's The Wonder Years. Johnnie offers an insider's take on what really happened on the neighborhood baseball diamond dubbed "the sandlot." Ten years earlier, in an effort to retrieve a baseball that went over the sandlot fence, Scottie and his pals encountered "the Beast," a neighborhood dog the boys were afraid would eat them alive. A decade later, the dog and his elusive owner, Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones), remain behind the fence, continuing to fuel the neighborhood legend. A new crop of young ballplayers (Max Lloyd-Jones, Brett Kelly, Cole Evan Weiss, Sean Berdy and Neilen Benvengnu) are eager to claim the sandlot as their own, but another group of 12-year-olds has already marked the territory. And they're girls. The boys are resentful until they learn that the four girls, led by neighborhood newcomer Hayley Goodfairer (Samantha Burton), are members of a professional softball team called the Diamond Diggers. The love-struck boys quickly realize the advantage of forming an alliance, and spend the summer laughing with and learning from their female counterparts. Familiar plot twists force the new crew to put on their thinking caps and devise a way to retrieve the priceless NASA-prototype model rocket stolen from Hayley's vacationing father in time for the Fourth of July. The players make a series of unsuccessful attempts to scale the fence, each of which offers a uniquely humorous perspective on life as a 12-year-old and serves as a reminder that everything is easier with a friend by your side.
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