Monday, December 2, 2013

Sugar (2009)

SugarPREFACE: 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.

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!!

Buy Sugar (2009) Now

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.

Read Best Reviews of Sugar (2009) Here


On one level, this movie follows a well-trodden path -the quest of a young hotshot kid for fame and fortune in the big leagues. But it is a notch above that in its exploration of the exploitative world in which U.S. baseball franchises milk a small Caribbean nation for talent, hoping to find the next Sammy Sosa. For every major league slugger or golden arm unearthed, scores of lives lay shattered -the lives of the wannabes who for one reason or another don't quite make it.

Sugar is an aspiring pitcher with a 97 mph fastball and a bamboozling curve ball. In the Dominican Republic, we join him at a training camp where teenagers eat, drink and sleep baseball, all hoping and dreaming for a shot at the big time. Their regular education forgotten, they are drilled in the basic English vocabulary of the game -"home run, double play, I got it, etc etc."

Sugar gets his shot at training camp and is sent to a minor league team in the cornfields of Iowa where he boards with an elderly couple who provide a home for a different young player every year. Hardly knowing a word of English, he's fish out of water. But everything goes well at first as he wins his first few games. Then, all of a sudden, he loses his form, loses his cool and eventually walks out on the team and makes his way to New York, just another illegal immigrant trying to build his life. At that point, the movie also loses its focus.

It's an interesting take on the seamier side of the baseball industry but the characters are not sharply enough drawn for the movie to be truly involving. Sugar seems like a pleasant young man but we hardly know what, if anything, is really going on inside his head. The movie is pleasant -but one feels it hardly scratches the surface. It takes no risks and never tries to go deep.

Want Sugar (2009) Discount?

Why is it that the majority of baseball movies of the past 20-25 years are comedies? Think about it: Bull Durham, Major League, Little Big League, Angels in the Outfield, etcetera, have all been played for laughs. Frankly, most of the baseball movies that HAVE gone the serious route just haven't cut it, but "Sugar" works...and it works well.

"Sugar" is about Miguel "Sugar" (or "Azucar") Santos, a teenaged pitcher from an impoverished background in the Dominican Republic. You get to watch how Sugar progresses from a baseball academy in the DR to his signing with the fictitious Kansas City Knights, who then send him to the equally fictitious Bridgeport Swing of the very real Class A Midwest League. In this movie, "Bridgeport" is actually Davenport, Iowa, home of a real Midwest League team that plays its home games in John O'Donnell Stadium (one of the little jewels of minor league ballparks).

The movie then shows the culture shock Sugar experiences in Bridgeport: His English is weak, he doesn't understand midwestern social norms, and is very homesick. He hurts his arm while pitching, but keeps quiet because he is afraid he'll be sent back home if the team knows about it (they eventually figure it out). Ultimately, Sugar's optimism gives way to disillusion, and the flick makes its way to the finish on that note. I won't give away the ending.

This is perhaps the most realistic baseball movie I've ever seen, and I have spoken with a Yankees scout from Mexico who agrees that what happens in "Sugar" is very typical in Latin America. It's a real meat market down there when it comes to baseball, and this movie nails that aspect of the game as well as the very real culture shock young Latino players experience when they come to the USA.

There is humor in this movie, but it's incidental. The baseball as played in the movie is quite good, and Algenis Perez Soto, who plays Sugar, is actually pretty good as a pitcher...he is not some actor who tries to look like a ballplyer. He's pretty charismatic, too. There are subtitles, too. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a REAL baseball movie, and only wish I could give it more than five stars. "Sugar" is a winner.

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