Sugar is the inspirational story of Miguel Santos, a gifted pitcher struggling to make it to the big leagues of American baseball. Nicknamed "Az˙car" (Spanish for "sugar"), 19-year-old Miguel travels from his poor but tigh... more »tly-knit community in the Dominican Republic to play minor league baseball in the United States - where anything is possible. He finds himself in a small Iowa town, where he struggles with the culture, the language, and the pressure of knowing that only his success can rescue his family.
"It's very real and has a really good message." -Pedro Martinez
Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY Reviewed on 1/16/2011...
Aspiring ballplayers' 'Field of Dreams' doesn't always end up in a Major League Ballpark
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sugar is the nickname for an aspiring Dominican ballplayer, Miguel Santos, played by newcomer Algeniz Perez Soto. We first meet Miguel in his hometown in the Dominican Republic, where he is sort of a legend due to his prowess as a star pitcher for the local baseball club. Everyone in the town looks up to these ballplayers with the expectation that they're all going to make it in professional baseball in the United States and bring home the bacon. Sugar is no exception and believes he's got what it takes to become a star professional baseball player. One is immediately impressed with the camaraderie amongst the aspiring ballplayers--they all seem to enjoy gently ribbing one another as to their ball playing abilities and obsession in making it to the big leagues.
Miguel is good enough to be invited to spring training with the Kansas City Knights (a fictional name for the real life Kansas City Royals). The film's scenarists do an excellent job of depicting the culture shock when Sugar first arrives in the United States. First and foremost is the language barrier and Sugar must depend on his friend, Jorge, who he knows from back in DR, to translate for the Spanish speaking players (the players follow Jorge's lead when he orders French toast at a restaurant; later, a kindly waitress teaches Miguel the difference between 'scrambled' eggs and 'sunny side up'). Miguel does well enough to be promoted to Single A minor league team in a small town in Iowa.
Miguel is placed with the Higgins family who have a history of taking in Dominican players in their home during their stint with this particular minor league baseball team. The Higgins are religious and Sugar ends up attending the Higgins' daughter's church youth group as well as actual church services. The father is the only family member who knows any Spanish at all but his skills are limited. I found it annoying that the rest of the family members (particularly the daughter) kept speaking English to Miguel knowing full well that he didn't know what she was saying. There was no attempt on the daughter's part (nor Miguel's) to break out a Spanish-English dictionary and at least try to communicate with the aid of at least a dictionary. Eventually, Miguel does pick up enough English to get by but it's made clear that until he learns enough of the language, he remains alienated during his sojourn in Iowa. Due to the culture clash, Miguel almost gets into big trouble when a group of locals at a bar start to pick a fight after Miguel is seen dancing with one of the local hotties.
Miguel's friend, Jorge, is eventually cut from the team after his skills diminish due to the aggravation an old leg injury. Then Miguel sustains a knee injury and is sidelined for a few weeks. When he returns, his pitching skills also have diminished and he resorts to taking pills (steroids?) to enhance his performance. While successful for a couple of innings, by the midpoint of the game, Miguel beans an opposing batter and a fight ensues between both teams. While the fight is going on, Miguel appears to be in a complete daze, obviously unable to handle the drugs he's just put into his system. The manager then relegates Miguel to the bullpen, which only serves to intensify his depression.
Some internet posters find it unbelievable that Miguel would so easily give up his baseball career after deciding to leave the team and take off to New York City. Not every aspiring ballplayer will have the same reaction. In Miguel's case, he not only realized that he wasn't good enough to make it in the big leagues, he was also put off by the way the team wasn't willing to be patient with his friend Jorge who, according to Miguel, "had worked so hard". Miguel also correctly assessed the situation that he would be cut from the team and didn't want to endure the humiliation of being told he was no longer wanted by them.
The film's denouement highlights Miguel's travails in NYC where he struggles to find a job and tries to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Eventually, he takes a job as a busboy and becomes friends with the owner of a carpenter shop, who takes him in when he runs out of money which he was using to pay for a room at a flea bag hotel. Miguel's friend allows him to work at the shop for free where he builds a table which he plans to send to his mother back in DR. The final scene shows Miguel playing sandlot baseball with other Dominican ballplayers who gave up their dream of playing professional baseball. No longer feeling pressure to succeed in a 'career', Miguel now seems more content in his new life and can enjoy playing baseball simply for the fun of it.
It's refreshing to see a film about an ordinary Hispanic guy who's not a criminal. There's been a tendency to focus more on the criminal behavior in the movies today involving Hispanic culture. Although 'Sugar' lacks a discernible antagonist, the focus is really on Miguel's internal arc, as he comes to grips with the fact that he really isn't cut out to be a ballplayer. The introverted Miguel isn't really much of a complex character and hence 'Sugar' will not be remembered for big dramatic scenes. But in its own quiet way, 'Sugar' ably reminds us that an aspiring ballplayer's 'Field of Dreams' does not always end up inside a major league ballpark.
DVD version is BUTCHERED
Cody Clarke | Brooklyn, NY | 11/17/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"PREFACE: This 1-star review is not of the film Sugar (as I have yet to even see it) but of the decision that was made to cut this film down from an R to a PG-13 for its DVD release.
Sugar was released theatrically with an R, and is on Blu-Ray with an R, but the DVD version has been sanitized into a PG-13 order to reach a 'wider market.' This so-called 'wider market' neglects grown-ups and teens who are allowed to see R-rated movies but don't own a Blu-Ray player, which in actuality, is the WIDEST demographic!
Blu-Ray is not the standard yet. One day it will be, but it is not yet what the majority of people own. This was an atrocious marketing decision, as was the studio's decision to castrate one of the BEST-REVIEWED movies of the year.
There have been sanitized versions of films released on DVD in the past, but always alongside a separate unrated or theatrical version. However, this is the FIRST time, in my memory, that a sanitized version has been released on a format ONLY. Think about it like this-- this is the equivalent of Huckleberry Finn being only available abridged in print form, and only available unabridged on Amazon Kindle. It's insane, it's anti-art, it's anti-artist.
The word needs to be spread. Standing idly by will only mean more films receiving this same unfair treatment in the future. If you disagree with such practice, vote that this review was helpful, and post a review of your own."
Standard DVD version is censored
Robert M. Gorman | 09/22/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The original theatrical release of Sugar was rated R, as is the Blu-ray version. Sadly, the standard DVD version has been censored in order to get a PG-13 rating. It is not obvious in the Amazon listing that the standard version has been modified, so beware. Buy the Blu-ray version if you want to see the film as originally released."
Beautiful Tale Of A Man Who Loves Baseball
Movie Lover | New York, NY | 08/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sugar was beautiful, heart-felt, and realistic. I loved the flow of the movie, showing Miguel "Sugar" Santos' journey, from his days in Dominican Republic to the US. It felt I was watching an actual documentary. You'll see him struggling with the language barrier, finding his own identity as a person while traveling in the U.S., being a "product" for the Minor Baseball League. Compelling and it'll make you wonder how the Major/Minor Baseball Leagues recruit these players, understanding the process of choosing certain players AND the politics behind it.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are fantastic once again with the story-telling, dialogue and the care with research (back stories of real life ballplayers) to tell this story so perfectly. And the lead actor, Algenis Perez Soto was impressive, considering this was his 1st acting role. I highly recommended this movie!! "
Excellent film, solid Blu
Steve Kuehl | Ben Lomond, CA | 09/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I always appreciate a film that relays the story you hear nothing about in the headlines, or sometimes anywhere. As stated in the special features numerous times, this is not a baseball movie, but a film about those that love the game, while barely making a living at that.
The story follows one prospective big league dreamer as he works from the fields of the Dominican Republic to the minors in the US. When the movie ends, I think it helps one learn so much about so many people you never hear about on the sports page. Believable performances beginning to end.
The picture clarity is as expected from a Sony BD release: the colors are vibrant, the clarity well defined, even in most of the night footage and the sound is decent as they went the TrueHD on this. The supplements are thorough and include: * Making of, 14:32 minutes: filled with plenty of background interviews and thoughts behind the story and production. * Domincan Dream, Playing Baseball 13:00 minutes: covers more about the film festival in the DR and how it helped highlight this story. Some Sammy Sosa interviews and red carpet footage for the cast/crew. * Casting, 4 minutes: Soto's casting tape, heck of a job for never acting before. * Deleted scenes, 7 minutes: five scenes that showcase the usual original quality of film prior to going Blu, would have preferred to see them in the film, especially once you know this is about him, not just the sport.
An A/B/C coded BD that lives up to being a great film preserved adequately like HBO Films and Sony usually do."
Very realistic and accurate depiction of minor league life.
Stephen C. Smith | Irvine, CA USA | 08/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those of us who've been around the minor leagues, "Sugar" is a very realistic and accurate depiction of minor league life, especially for Dominicans.
Although it's fiction, the second act is set in Davenport, Iowa with the Quad Cities River Bandits, only in the movie it's "Bridgetown" and the team is called the Swing because they wear the uniforms worn by the River Bandits before their latest name change (to save production money, no doubt). Parts are also filmed in other Iowa Midwest League towns.
The third act is not what you expect, and I'll just leave it at that."