Blu-Ray Review: Fantastic ‘Sugar’ Deserves Wide Home Audience

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CHICAGO – As the baseball season winds to a close, take some time to catch up with one of the best dramas of the year and one of the best movies made about the changing face of the sport in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s fantastic “Sugar”. This is a film that gets better with each viewing and as it lingers in the memory. Now on Blu-Ray and DVD, don’t miss “Sugar”. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

I don’t want to sell “Sugar” as a traditional baseball movie. This is far from “Bull Durham” or “Field of Dreams”. It’s more about what baseball has become for a lot of players in the 2000s: a story of immigration. It’s also not your traditional story of a rising star overcoming adversity to find fame and fortune.

So what is “Sugar”? First and foremost, it is simply enjoyable from beginning to end even if it’s not in a standard “inspirational sports movie” way that viewers might expect. I smiled throughout “Sugar” for a few reasons, but it should be noted that it’s probably at least partially because I’m not only a baseball nut but a pitching nut. I’m a lover of the game who would rather see a gorgeous curveball than a home run derby. “Sugar” is a hell of a cinematic curveball.

Sugar was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 1st, 2009.
Sugar was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 1st, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Video

The title character is a 20-year-old Dominican baseball player for the Kansas City Knights named Miguel “Sugar” Santos (played in a beautifully understated performance by Algenis Perez Soto). Sugar is never portrayed as a guaranteed superstar. He’s a kid who’s trying to work his way up through a punishing system to become the next Robinson Cano and play at Yankee Stadium.

Sugar gets a chance to report to spring training where he could go up to single-A ball or get sent back down to the Caribbean farm system. He’s one of the lucky ones and becomes a starting pitcher for the single-A Bridgetown Swing. This takes him to the heartland of the United States. He ends up living with a very religious family who often essentially serve as foster parents. They teach him English and advise him on small-town life.

Sugar was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 1st, 2009.
Sugar was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 1st, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Video

Santos becomes close to Jorge (Rayniel Rufino), an aging player on his way out, and Brad Johnson (Andre Johnson), a second baseman who practically wears a shirt that says “Future All-Star”. But Sugar is essentially alone. He speaks almost no English, has a girlfriend back home and struggles with confidence as the wear and tear of a season starts to effect his arm strength and control. It’s a common story: 19- and 20-year-old kids with no one to turn to and caught in a world where they don’t even speak the language.

“Sugar” is a dramatically rich and unpredictable, believable, genuine sports movie. Soto is fantastic and is further proof after “Half Nelson” that these two young writers and directors know how to work with actors. In a genre that usually tugs at the heartstrings and works with ninth-inning manipulation, the best compliment to pay “Sugar” is that this film feels more like a documentary. I believed every second of “Sugar”. It’s one of the best films of 2009 to date.

Too many small films are being unceremoniously ushered onto standard DVD and not being given a life on Blu-ray. This recently happened to the great “Sin Nombre” and “Goodbye Solo,” which are two other films that currently hold places in my top 10 of 2009 but have no HD release. If I could personally thank the Sony representative who chose to put “Sugar” on Blu-ray, I would. All films this good should be on Blu-ray. By this time next year, I think this problem will be a thing of the past.

“Sugar” is presented in 1080p High Definition with a 1.78:1 aspect ration and accompanied by a Spanish/Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. Special features include deleted scenes, “Making Sugar: Run the Bases,” “Play Beisbol!: The Dominican Dream,” and “Casting Sugar: Interview with Algenis Perez Soto”.

‘Sugar’ is released by Sony Home Video and stars Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino, and Andre Johnson. It was written and directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck. The Blu-Ray and DVD were released on September 1st, 2009. It is not rated. content director Brian Tallerico

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