King’s story “The Body” gets a more marketable title, after a jukebox chestnut, which turns out to fit the theme of camaraderie played up by director Rob Reiner. After two celebrated comedies (This Is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing), Reiner was eager to prove with his third movie that he could do drama, and yet nothing seems forced or overeager about his ode to childhood friendship.
It certainly helped that he found four young stars with real talent — River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connell — who could generate the spontaneous, believable chemistry of boys who’d been pals for years. The movie is often read as an exercise in golden-hued nostalgia, but it’s clear that all four of these boys have had fairly horrific childhoods. Aside from their mutual friendship, all this quartet have for comfort are the pop-cultural touchstones of the 1950s that King and Reiner so love. Oh, and one more thing: the art of storytelling, which provides the one moment of real levity in the movie (the cartoon gross-out of the pie-eating contest).
At the end of the boys’ journey, their discovery of another kid’s corpse seems like an anticlimax. Then again, so is adulthood, after a childhood of adventure, terror, and male bonding.