Combustible Celluloid
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With: Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino, Andre Holland, Michael Gaston, Jaime Tirelli, Jose Rijo, Ann Whitney, Richard Bull, Ellary Porterfield, Alina Vargas, Kelvin Leonardo Garcia, Joendy Pena Brown, Kelvin Leonardo Garcia
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and brief drug use
Language: Spanish, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 114
Date: 01/21/2008

Sugar (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mr. Beisbol

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Co-writers and co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck follow up their Oscar-nominated hit Half Nelson (2006) with another film that steps very close to Hollywood convention but deftly avoids it. Algenis Perez Soto makes a notable movie debut as "Sugar" Santos, a talented 20 year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic who gets a shot at joining an American Midwest minor league team. Needless to say, he gets a huge dose of culture shock; the cute, religious white girl who lives nearby offers something of a traditional romantic angle, but the film takes an unexpected right turn away from her. Similarly, it takes a right turn away from the inspirational Rocky-style sports story as Sugar suddenly decides to take a different route to the American Dream. Boden and Fleck present their tale with a deceptive straightforward realism, but it's what they don't show that is key: there's no preaching or finger-wagging, no sentiment and no well-worn grooves. Through this method of sidestepping, they manage to make this baseball film something more than just a baseball film, and it feels like something new.

DVD Details: Sony's DVD comes with deleted scenes (8 minutes), a making-of featurette (15 minutes), a featurette about Dominicans and baseball (13 minutes) and a featurette about the casting of Algenis Perez Soto (5 minutes), plus trailers. Note: this review pertains to the PG-13 version.

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