Adapted from the nostalgic, bittersweet Stephen King novella The Body, director Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me has one of the more memorable tear-jerking endings of the 1980s. After completing their quest to see a dead body, four boys return to their own sleepy home town and their own separate lives. One of those boys, Gordie (Wil Wheaton), grows up to be a writer played by Richard Dreyfuss, and he lets the audience know what happens to the other three kids. The news isn’t always so great, especially for the movie’s most dynamic and heroic character, Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), who meets an unpleasant fate in a crummy fast food restaurant. Compounding the sadness is the fact that the ending narration is delivered by Dreyfuss, whose previous film American Graffiti ended pretty much the exact same way. Plus, there’s the depressing realization that the actor playing Chris was dead just seven years after the movie came out. So when Reiner fades up that Ben E. King title song on the soundtrack, while Dreyfuss’ character plays with his kids, it just isn’t fair.
But maybe the ending of Stand By Me doesn’t have to be quite such a downer. YouTuber Faster Human has posted an alternate ending for the film that puts a decidedly irreverent spin on the same basic set of events. The news is no better for poor Chris, but Dreyfuss’ writer character learns a very different lesson this time. Or, to be more precise, he learns nothing at all.
In a weird way, this video is an exercise in double-strength nostalgia. When Stand By Me first came out, the scenes with Richard Dreyfuss were supposed to be taking place in the present. But now, Reiner’s film is 30 years old, so now these supposedly contemporary moments are part of the distant past as well. Notice that, in Faster Human’s version of the scene, the writer has to resort to using a primitive emoticon, making a frowny face out of a colon and a parenthesis. Emoji didn’t exist back then. And that computer he’s using, with glowing green letters on a black screen, is like something out of the Smithsonian. Those kids must be middle-aged by now. Jesus, this scene is still depressing.
Here’s the original for comparison.