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Outdoor movie series hits it out of the park

Outdoor movie series hits it out of the park

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I thought I was settling. I was wrong.

When Angie Cabell, executive director of the Powhatan Chamber of Commerce, first talked to me about the new Movies in May series back in April, I was super excited.

Going to the movies with friends is one of my favorite social outings, especially if we go for dinner or dessert afterward and talk about the film we just saw – good or bad. So going to the movies was obviously one of the many activities off limits during the height of the pandemic that I seriously missed.

Some theaters are open now, although the future of the movie theater industry may be in question, but I still haven’t gone. I will admit that it hasn’t been fear of COVID-19 that kept me away these last few months but a real lack of anything I was particularly interested in seeing.

Back to Movies in May. The chamber partnered with the Economic Development Department to put on the series of three movies, which were shown over three consecutive Saturdays. The schedule for the movie series saw “Star Wars” playing on May 1, “The Sandlot” on May 8, and “The Princess Bride” on May 15.

When I first heard about the lineup, I immediately zoomed in on “The Princess Bride,” thinking it would be fantastic to get a group of friends – maybe even a girls’ night outing – together and quote along with the movie. I don’t know it as well as a few of my friends, but I still thoroughly enjoy it. And to get to watch it as an outdoor movie on top of that was a huge bonus.

As it turned out, I had other commitments on May 1 and 15, so my only option to attend was May 8. I remember watching “The Sandlot” a great deal as a child. A group of neighborhood kids play baseball and have misadventures in this movie set in summer 1962. While I have little interest in sports, I have some favorite sports-themed movies, and this baseball classic was always on the list, although it had been a while since I last viewed it.

Still, I wanted to go to the “movies.” So, I invited my friend to come along with her family and they agreed. A movie under the stars for the bargain price of $10 for eight people was a great deal.

We ate dinner at a local restaurant, hauled butt to their house to pick up their chairs and blankets, and then rushed back to the Rescue Squad Grounds to find a spot. The venue wasn’t packed, but there were plenty of groups nicely spread out in the field with a few vendors on either side. We chose a spot right in the middle and set out our chairs to enjoy the movie. Within minutes of the movie starting, I was tightly wrapped up in my blanket as it was still quite chilly.

Going into the movie night, I didn’t recall the full plot. Certain things I still remembered, such as the CPR scene at the pool, James Earl Jones’ appearance, an awkward kid finding a place to belong, and one of my favorite movie lines of all time – “You’re killing me, Smalls!” I have no shame in admitting I will still slip and say that on occasion when someone is being frustrating, whether they are old enough to get the reference or not.

Oh, and one more thing. Mike Vitar. The actor who played Benny the Jet Rodriguez was featured heavily in the teen magazines in the early 1990s. I was only 11 when the movie was released, so I honestly don’t remember if I had a crush on him. But I know my step-sisters did and always wanted to see his picture when they came for their visits.

So that was my mindset going into this outing – that and hoping the movie would be as good as I remembered since not all older movies have staying power. I am happy to say, in my humble opinion, it has held up to the test of time.

There were so many moments I had forgotten that can still make me smile or outright laugh. I loved Ham’s explanation of s’mores, which is truly a must if there is any kind of open flame nearby. As an adult, I could appreciate how much of a truly good person the character of Benny was, who is the most skilled of the group but also was the most willing to give a chance to a kid with absolutely no skills and no clue.

I also could appreciate the unrealistic expectation people had that a kid who had never been shown how to play couldn’t just do it automatically. It took someone genuinely wanting to help him learn for it to start happening. I had no recollection of the other team coming to challenge the sandlot kids or the hilarious insults that flew as a result. I like that the movie didn’t go the way of so many of that era – of making the other team the bad guys and beating them the ultimate goal. They had bigger fish to fry when they had to face off against The Beast.

But my absolute favorite moment of the whole night was when my friend’s teenage daughter, who was sitting next to me, first spotted Mike Vitar and said, “Ooooh, he’s cute.” I immediately texted one of my step-sisters to tell her what had happed and said he had a new generation of fan girl. Some things are timeless.

Laura McFarland may be reached at


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