Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sugar - a baseball movie review

With Torii Hunter's comments igniting a firestorm with baseball fans, it maybe good timing to watch a baseball movie like Sugar - it sheds some insight to the systematic development of potential talent from the Dominican Republic and humanizes those brought over to play baseball professionally.

Miguel 'Sugar' Santos [played by Algenis Perez Soto] is a diamond in the rough, a talented baseball player who is cocky and has some rough edges to polish - as he plays in a baseball academy [ran by the fictional Kansas City Knights] in the Dominican Republic. 

Most importantly, Santos possesses an electric arm with promise to do some things as a pitcher - particularly after Santos learns to throw a 'spiked curve,' from an visiting official from the parent organization.

Santos is eventually shipped off to America with a fellow player and friend from the academy, takes part in spring training - Santos shows enough promise to skip rookie ball and is assigned to the Knights' Single-A minor league team in Iowa. 

However, Sugar treats professional baseball as the key to Santos' future success - but at the same time, as the Santos' minor league season wears on, the game begins to unravel for him when he gets hurt and struggles to come back. He then loses his two best friends on the team through a release and through a promotion. 

Sugar paints Santos as complicated, brooding, angry, disillusioned and desperate - the contrast between Santos' early promise and his frustrations seems a little unnerving for those expecting a straight shot to the top for Santos.

The movie lingers towards the alienation Santos feels - especially when things don't go his way, when he can't be part of the action and when he has to adjust to a different culture. Santos may is barely hanging on.

He isn't merely stereotypical of the jock, longing to play again however and aloof to those around he - at his host family's home, he helps fix a broken drawer and helps wash dishes.

Santos experiences success and failure as a baseball player, but there is realization as far as Santos goes, his time in the game is fleeting - he suddenly finds himself barely hanging on and maybe so are his aspirations.

Fed up, Santos takes a drastic step that seems entirely foreign to the popular baseball/sports movie - still anticipating something as dramatic as getting Santos back on the mound, a glimpse of Yankee Stadium is as close we get, as close as Santos gets.

Still, the audience comes away with the idea, Santos is a better man as he comes of age - he seems happier, he has adjusted, even though his promise as a professional baseball player is up in the air.

This one of those movies that maybe a one-shot deal, this isn't going to be a franchise, the actors may never appear in a mainstream film again - but Sugar is a baseball movie that becomes something else, maybe a coming of age movie serving notice for anyone aspiring to chase their American dream.

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