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Sugar More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Sugar is sweet!

8/10
Author: meeza (themeezaman@hotmail.com) from Miami, Fl
26 June 2010

There are a plethora of Dominican baseball stars in the Major Leagues which have become all-stars such as Pedro Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Robinson Cano, and David "Big Papi" Ortiz; and that is just the microcosm of the Domincanos who have had major contributions to "la pelota". But for every one Hanley or Robinson or even Big Papi, there are tons of Sugars who are vying to find that ticket to the MLB show. "Sugar" is a noble and touching narrative of Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a young Dominican pelotero who heads to the states to play Single A minor league baseball. "Sugar" accentuates the taste buds of young Dominicanos who want to better their lives and support their families by succeeding in the sport they love the most. But "Sugar" is even more than that; it also focuses on the adjustment process that they go through in the United States especially within the language barrier hurdles. Santos is the archetype of that description and the story of "Sugar" effectively catches on to that. Santos is a bit of a curveball character with his diversified personality traits; he could be funny, sad, angry, immature, friendly, appreciative, selfish or loving. But overall Santos is more on the santo side of the character ball on how he fixates on succeeding at his craft to primarily send his mother money in order to raise funds to build her a new home and also build her a new table. "Santos" is surrounded by other screwball Dominican characters on the same minor league voyage as Sugar, which bring some relief to the sheer entertainment value of the film especially when it seemed that the movie was going to take a walk on the melodramatic side. The promising writer-director team of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, who also helmed the indie darling "Half Nelson", did run most of the bases of authentic film-making in pitching the "Sugar" story to audiences. However, I wished they would of have used the "cutter" more when it came to the creepy scenes of Sugar's admiration to the granddaughter of the Iowan family he was staying with. I am not going to sugarcoat this: Algenis Perez Soto's performance as Sugar was sporadically amateurish, but being his first acting performance I must state that he has mucho potential to make a mound of money in the thespian field. "Sugar" is set first in the Dominican Republic, then in Iowa, and lastly in New York. Even though the New York act plays a critical factor in the film's narrative climax, it felt a bit too stretched out. Nevertheless, I do recommend "Sugar" and do feel that you should not be "Sugar" free in your movie watching experience. **** Good

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

It took two Indie filmmakers to make a good film about Dominicans!! Bravo for their effort.

8/10
Author: thedrmat from Edmonton, Canada
28 October 2009

Don't get me wrong. I am a Dominican living in Canada, and I have had the opportunity to watch most of the films made and released in the Dominican Republic. Some of them satisfactorily good, some merely passable, some unwatchable. But the common factor here is that, for some reason, the filmmakers haven't been able so far to give the themes in this movie a transcending universal appeal.

In come Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (the only film I have seen from them is HALF NELSON, for which Ryan Gosling as nominated for a Best Actor Oscar), who, by means of some interviews and notes of experiences from Dominican immigrants, were able to concoct a bittersweet drama which is nothing short of a love letter to us Dominicans, and our reality as immigrants and our die-hard passion for baseball.

Despite some occasional shortcomings (like, for example, the "perfect" way Sugar's Dominican girlfriend speaks Spanish; I personally had a strong objection to this detail, since Dominicans, specially low-class ones, don't usually talk like that), the film is in all, very well achieved. You can see the genuine Dominican elements within; yet, this time around, they are there for absolutely anyone to feel, understand and even enjoy them. Other good thing was the effective way in which the film goes from briefly telling about life in our little third-world (yet warm and fun-loving) country without patronization, to a somehow exciting Sports drama, and then to a testament about the harsh reality of being an immigrant in a strange land.

All the technical elements are effective and used to good effect: the non-intrusive music, the photography, the well-paced editing. And the performances are nuanced and grounded in reality. None of the Dominican actors becomes a cliché, which has been usually a dangerous thing. Newcomer Algenis Perez Soto makes a solid debut here; we root for him all the way. We can see his love for the game, as well as his underlying sense of befuddlement, amazement, sadness and occasional desperation. Also, more than worthy of mention are, in the supporting roles, Rayniel Rufino as fellow player Jorge; Kelvin Garcia as Salvador, who gets to become a key player in the plot; and, towards the end, Dominican singer Alina Vargas, in a very brief role as a restaurant attendant.

In all, it is a personal joy to see that somebody was finally able, not only to make a good Dominican-oriented movie, but to also show the many good things we may have as a culture. Bravo, Mr. Fleck and Mr. Boden for your courageous effort!! 8/10.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Sweet curve

9/10
Author: Chad Shiira from cshiira@gmail.com
5 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Miguel "Sugar" Santos(Algenis Perez Soto) is a right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He never had the opportunity of a Stanford education like his American teammate Brad Johnson(Andre Holland), who has graduate school as a backup plan should a career in baseball not pan out. But here they both are, despite such disparate sociological backgrounds, on equal footing, temporary Iowaians in the clubhouse of the Class A affiliate for the Kansas City Swing, talking about their futures. "Sugar" shows how sports democratizes people, but still, differences remain. Without the luxury of a college education to fall back on, one would gauge Miguel's situation as a desperate one; it's Kansas City or bust, with the economical future of his family back in the Caribbean riding on that sweet knuckle curve he throws for strikes. He can't throw balls, right? Due to our western bias, we assume that Miguel is skillless, save for his ability to get batters out. In the very next scene, however, we learn this isn't true, as the pitching prospect fixes the drawer of his host family. Miguel's secret talent serves as the impetus for the film's unexpected divergence from the inspirational sports movie formula.

Back at the Dominican Republic training facility, posted on a locker room wall, Miguel and the other aspiring prospects look at the list of names with their corresponding assignments, as spring training has come to a close. Anybody who follows professional baseball closely, understands the significance of Miguel being allowed to leapfrog Rookie ball and going directly to Class A. The kid has talent. Touted, but not highly so, as the filmmakers decided to portray a modestly talented player, not a phenom, to better represent the unglamorous world of minor league baseball, even more so than Ron Shelton's "Bull Durham", since the surefire can't miss prospect(Brad) is a minor character, soon shipped off to Double A. Stateside for the first time, Miguel experiences the sensory overload that comes from being confronted by the exotica of a strange land, made easier, initially, with the availability of native speaking teammates showing him the ropes. America can be confusing. In "Half Nelson", the filmmakers' previous effort, a middle school teacher(played by Ryan Gosling) introduces the concept of dialectics to his pupils. Dialectics abound in "Sugar" too, for instance, Miguel's meeting of his host couple's virginal granddaughter Anne(Ellary Potterfield), a devout Christian, so soon after his encounter with the compliant women from the pay-per-view adult films he watches at the motel room. At a youth group meeting, Anne says that "spiritual accomplishments are more important," which sets the stage for the film's overriding dialectic: sports as a religion versus sports as a game, once Miguel loses his religion and doesn't get on the team bus heading on out to their next destination.

Church does nothing for Miguel. The Higgins(Earl and Helen, played by Richard Bull and Ann Whitney) are churchgoers. Even though the old couple are good people; they don't speak Spanish, a conspicuous and somewhat dubious distinction, since the old-timers have hosted so many Latin players. They're like missionaries. This language barrier between them becomes an issue after Miguel loses his native speaking buddies to promotions and roster cuts. After Miguel intentionally throws at an opposing player, causing an on-field melee, in the next scene, the slumping pitcher sits silently at the Higgins' dinner table like a disciplined child. Instead of words to explain his alienation, he cries, which earns a half-hug from Earl, who is, after all, a compassionate man, a good man, albeit an ignorant one. For Miguel, words are better; he's twenty, not twelve. With apologies to the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella, Iowa is not a "field of dreams" for Miguel; it's not the "heaven" as Ray(Kevin Costner) and his father deemed it in the Phil Alden Robinson movie. So Miguel goes to New York to become a carpenter's apprentice. He left the church, so to speak. Now that Miguel no longer has the cool cachet of professional ballplayer, "Sugar" challenges the audience to root for its protagonist outside the parameters of the "underdog" movie. Not only is Miguel a quitter, a notion that's antithetical to the genre, now he's just another illegal alien.

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Field of Suenos

7/10
Author: David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) from Dallas, Texas
26 April 2009

Greetings again from the darkness. Filmed in quasi-documentary style, the film appears on the surface to be about the Latino dream of making it to the major leagues. Upon closer review, the family and friends of Sugar only ask "Are you going to the states?". The crux of the film lies not so much in the long odds of making it to the show, but moreso, simply escaping the homeland ... it's just that baseball is viewed as the quickest ticket out.

The "Half Nelson" writer/director team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck score again with "Sugar". What really hit home with me was how many people miss out on their real chance because they just have a simple shortage of passion for their talent. When Sugar bashes the water cooler, it's not because he pitched poorly, but rather because he fears he will be shipped back home.

There are many fine moments in this and the final act twist is not just terrific story telling, but fitting as well. It does what a final act should do ... connect the dots. Think back to the domino scene when one guy spouts that he once hit 98 in spring training. The recognition that he is back home playing dominoes is the real story. Good stuff.

First time actor Algenis Perez Soto perfectly captures the charm and innocence of Sugar and finally the harsh reality of the situation. This is one to see.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Understand Baseball?

7/10
Author: ilania_a from Canada
6 March 2014

A few instances in this film were aimed at people who really understand the rules of the game of Baseball. I missed why a fight started after one of Sugar's pitches. However, even if you miss a few spots, the film still merits watching. The main character in this story: SUGAR is played by a very charismatic actor Algenis Perez Soto - who will hopefully have a successful career. The plot brings to light the trials and tribulations of young immigrants who have to undergo the humiliations of living in a different world. Apart from being a bit too slow and lengthy, the story is at times heart-wrenching. The Latin music is pleasant to hear, and even Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah sung in Spanish performed by GEPE is a very good. The last piece of music chosen for the end of the movie while the credits are running....is a bit of an odd choice though.

The film could have benefited from improved directing and better editing. Too much time spent on banal everyday life details. I had to stop the film a few times because it became a bit tiresome, but there was something quite fetching about it. I just wonder what Robert Redford or Clint Eastwood would have done with the same actors.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A very fine movie

7/10
Author: richard-1787 (richard@berrong.fr) from United States
26 October 2013

This movie turned out to be not at all what I was expecting - a biopic of Ron Santos - but still a very fine movie.

It tells the story of a young man from the Dominican Republic who plays baseball down there and is called to play in the minor leagues here in the States. They send him to a small town in Iowa, and house him with a family who does not speak Spanish - his English is very weak. He has to deal with many of the problems faced by immigrants with weak English in a country that is not particularly welcoming to those who do not speak English.

He goes through various trials and tribulations.

Through it all he remains a very likable character, and you remain interested in his struggles.

I strongly recommend this movie, even if you have no interest in baseball.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Docudrama style sport film shines

9/10
Author: drpakmanrains from United States
29 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am so sick of sports movies that attempt to mythologize football or baseball, and make it bigger than life. So as soon as I try out a sports film on Netflix, I am wary from the start. Well, with "Sugar" I sure found one that goes against the tide. This is an Hispanic film done in an almost docudrama style, with an outstanding first time performance by Algenis Perez Soto as an aspiring baseball player from the Dominican Republic hoping, like so many of his peers, to get to the major leagues. But unlike most movies of this genre, "Sugar" (His Nickname) focuses less on the sport, and more on the reality of the experiences he encounters as a stranger in a foreign land. All the peripheral characters, like the farm family in Iowa he first resides with, are very believable and fairly well fleshed out, but none are there as central figures. Rather the filmmakers are intent on showing the totality of the immigrant experience. And don't expect a rah-rah finish with a big game. This film is more about what happens to the overwhelming majority who don't fully realize their dream and have to come to terms with reality. An exceptional film.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Clichéd, poorly photographed "immigrant experience" film

2/10
Author: zipang96 from United States
13 March 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Sugar" is a poorly written and directed tale about a poorly educated Dominican immigrant who attempts to make it as a minor league baseball pitcher. Numerous clichés and racial stereotypes are presented, including a scene where Sugar is shown to be more concerned with owning a flashy white suit instead of working on his control problems.

The movie is a "serious" attempt to comment on the difficulties that immigrants face in entering into American society, but all the film does is highlight Sugar's unwillingness to attempt to adapt to the rural Iowa farming community he finds himself in. Even after the only other Dominican player on the team is cut, Sugar makes little attempt to learn English or to study and embrace American culture, despite the fact that his only translator is gone from the team! Algenis Perez Soto wins the "Christopher Lambert Award for Stone Faced Acting," showing little in the way of genuine emotion save for the occasional look of pained confusion. His idea of "good acting" is to squint his eyes very tightly when his coach benches him after a bad game.

Equally bad is the film's cinematography, shot in a shaky cam "pseudo documentary" style with washed out colors. The film is in desperate need of a up-tempo musical score to cover the many dull stretches.

Strong recommendation to avoid.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

$1,000,000 Arm. 10¢ Head.

3/10
Author: ldavis-2 from I am here. Where are you?
26 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The filmmakers want so badly for you to root for their hero, they saddle their little opus with enough clichés to choke a horse. The upshot is that their hero is the ultimate cliché: the arrogant, self-absorbed jerk with the $1,000,000 arm and the 10¢ head!

When one buddy gets cut, another buddy gets promoted, and a third buddy's progress regulates our hero to the bullpen, how does he respond? He jumps the team. That's real mature! Even his mother's attempt to guilt-trip him back to his senses doesn't work. If Sugar doesn't care that his family is now screwed because he decided to screw up, then why should we care about him?

Some reviewers have opined that the film is about how these poor non-white kids are exploited by rich white guys. But, as they say, it takes two to tango, and none of these kids have ever been forced to sign up for a shot at the big time. That Sugar and his fellow screw-ups decide to stay in the U.S. after their visas expire renders the filmmakers' self-righteous screed as pointless as their little opus.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not sure I'd call this a "baseball" movie

6/10
Author: asc85 from Mercer County, NJ
13 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sure, the backdrop is about a Dominican trying to make the big leagues, but the film takes quite an unexpected turn, and pretty much stays there. Definitely not a typical Hollywood ending by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that's why I liked it so much.

The guy playing Sugar does a heckuva job. I read somewhere that he was a former ballplayer, and maybe that's why his performance seems so spot on.

Still I know my rating of "6" is not a very favorable one. It's definitely worth a look if you're already interested. But if not, I wouldn't go out of my way to see it. It's decent, but nothing special.

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