It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Sugar" approaches with tender care the story of a kid from the Dominican Republic who has a strong pitching arm and a good heart. Miguel Santos, known as "Sugar" because of his sweet personality, is recruited from the fields of dreams in his homeland by Major League baseball, and assigned to an Iowa farm club that is very, very far from home.
I thought I could guess the story. But I couldn't. There isn't a single scene in this film where it really matters which side wins a game, and it doesn't end with a no-hitter. It looks with care at Sugar, and there are a thousand Sugars for every Sammy Sosa. Probably more. Baseball players have become an important export for the Dominican Republic, and poor families like Miguel's dream of the day when sons will be sending home paychecks. A minor league salary represents wealth.
The film is knowledgeable about how the system works. American teams maintain elaborate Dominican training facilities, send talent scouts to local leagues and keep recruits under close watch: Room and board is provided, there are security guards to enforce discipline, the kids get a few days off once in a while. This is heaven for them. For years, their dreams have been filled with visions of big-time baseball.
"Sugar" isn't filled with melodramatic developments and a hard landing on U.S. soil. Baseball seems, in fact, a friendly if realistic destination, an income where there was none before. If very few players ever make it into a Major League starting lineup, well, they know that going in. What's special about the film -- and this is a very special film -- is how closely it observes the emotional uncertainties of a stranger in a strange land, not speaking the language, not knowing the customs, beset with homesickness and the dread of disappointing his family.