A simple baseball melodrama.
By Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel
Sugar is a simple baseball melodrama about The Dominican Dream: to win a trip to the States and a shot at the major leagues.
That's what Miguel, aka ``Sugar,'' wants. He's a pitcher trying out for the Kansas City Knights. He lives in a baseball academy dorm, trying to impress the team's Dominican scout-coach, hoping to pick up enough English to manage life in the United States.
We meet the family that is counting on him; the ramshackle house he is building for his mom; the furniture he is also building (dad was a carpenter). At 19, his entire clan's future is riding on his success. All heartwarming but conventional baseball movie ingredients.
Where this Sundance Film Fest favorite breaks from formula is the girlfriend who isn't determined to follow him at all costs, the relatives who want to mooch, and in the mistakes Sugar makes.
Filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) score with plenty of light fish-out-of-water moments. The Dominicans on the farm team don't speak English, so they rely on a slightly more experienced teammate's restaurant savvy. ``French toast,'' they say, morning, noon and night. Algenis Perez Soto makes a compelling leading man as the film follows the rookie through the arc of a season. But Sugar evolves into an illegal immigrant saga, and that's where it goes astray. As much as we root for Sugar, his path is neither original nor particularly sympathetic. The story is too predictable to justify the film's length.
This Sugar doesn't blend the sweet with the bittersweet as deftly as it might have.
Cast: Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino, Andre Holland.
Directors/screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck.
Producers: Paul S. Mezey, Jamie Patricof, Jeremy Kipp Walker.
A Sony Pictures Classic Release. Running time: 114 minutes. Language, some sexuality, graphic nudity, brief drug use. In Miami-Dade only: Cosford.
ourtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.