Sunday, April 19, 2009


In cinema, no baseball film ever really depicts the climb up the minor league system. Almost every film starts right in the majors. "Sugar" is much different than what you've seen before in terms of baseball films. It succumbs to some different, apparently necessary cliches that every baseball movie has, but mostly, it's an interesting perspective on the game. The problem is that it can't maintain this mentality throughout the whole film. It starts as a first-rate baseball film and ends as a third-rate immigration drama.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have something here, it's just that it doesn't unfold in the way that it could have. They portray beisbol as a dazed state. What other game is like this? If you took time to contemplate in basketball or football, the opponent would have already scored. Algenis Perez Soto does quite well as a Dominican pitcher named Sugar Santos. He has a knucklecurve, and this is his claim to fame. What struck me is that to Americans, there is always a place for the young Hispanic phenom who can throw hard but who eventually slows down and allows another Hispanic phenom to take his place in a circle. Santos gets invited to Spring Training and impresses the scouts with every pitch. He's then shipped out to Iowa, where he is taken in by two elderly baseball nuts (Ann Whitney and Richard Bull) who see that the next Hispanic phenom does well for his block of time. This is where the film is the most flawed. At this point, Boden and Fleck rely on cliches to guide them. Every, every Midwesterner pro-noun-ces every word for Santos. They also go to church fervently, speak horrendous Spanish, have loved ones in Iraq, and everything else Americans "do."

Anyways, Santos' eye is caught by Anne (Ellary Porterfield), who likes him but doesn't want to get serious about anything. I'm wondering if this is what eventually throws Sugar, but it could also be that his veneer proves untrue. "Sugar" it seems is mostly about what I said before: being another Hispanic phenom in line. This is all good, but the execution isn't quite. The music is as varied as a bizarre montage with TV on the Radio to a Spanish rendition of "Hallelujah" to the horrible end song choice of Moby's "In This World." The feel of the film itself also impairs it. It all seems so familiar. "Sugar" is no doubt a flawed film, but I like it nonetheless, however uneven it is in the end. B-

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