Sometimes I will read a synopsis of a movie or see a trailer for a movie and decide that I am going to love it before I even see it. I like good movies. I like baseball. So when I heard about the movie "Sugar" I was really, really excited about it. Here's the synopsis:
Miguel Santos, a.k.a Azucar, a Dominican pitcher from San Pedro de Macoris, struggles to make it to the big leagues and pull himself and his family out of poverty. Playing professionally at the Kansas City Knights baseball academy, Miguel finally gets his break at age 19 when he advances to the United States' minor league system. Miguel travels from his tight knit community in the Dominican Republic to a small town in Iowa, corn country, where he and a couple other Latin American teammates are the only Spanish-speaking people in the vicinity.
That sounds pretty cool, right? Add an estranged wife and child and you could call it "The Alcides Escobar Story". The movie got great reviews, scoring 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and was called the best sports movie of 2009 by Bill Simmons. I had to see this movie, right?
Well, I did and I HATED it. (spoilers ahead)
Seriously, the makers of this movie deserve to be shot for the synopsis and trailer they gave us. They give us the idea that this is a movie about a Dominican trying to make it in the minor leagues, but what the movie is REALLY about is a Dominican who is a quitter. That's the movie. Baseball is a side character. Which is totally fine if you are doing a character study, but not when the character is a freakin' pussy. Here is how the synopsis should have read:
A Dominican guy breaks into the Kansas City minor league system and is sent to play in single-A Iowa. He is successful early and makes friends with another Dominican and the younger "bonus baby" player. Despite having a girlfriend back home he promised to bring over, he falls in love with the farmer's daughter he is living with. She is a crazy Christian person and won't put out rebuffs his advances. He is then injured and because the white girl didn't like him and his friends left the team, he becomes depressed. After he comes back from the injury based on his struggles we are supposed to believe he is on the verge of being cut (despite the fact that he could just get sent to rookie ball). His best option is to skip out on his contract and go to New York where he can live as an illegal immigrant washing dishes and doing carpentry. Eventually he finds happiness by playing baseball in a park with a bunch of other failed Latinos.
Okay that was more of a plot summary than a synopsis, but still. That's the movie. What is the message this movie is trying to send? "If you struggle, quit and do something else."? "Don't try to assimilate yourself with your teammates, just make two friends and when they leave just pout about it."? "Minor league baseball is a cut throat business so your best bet is to go to America and just stay there."? "Baseball bad. Carpentry good."?
Pick one. They all suck. Sure, it's tough to be a minor leaguer from a Latin American country and it probably is unfair at times. A player can easily get cut at the drop of the hat without any thinking about that particular player's plight. That's part of the game and that's part of life. I'm sure a great character study could be made about that guy, but this isn't it. This is the story of a quitter. Someone who purports to take his life in his own hands, but really gives up on his one chance because he is afraid they will give up on him first. That's no way to live your life and that's no way to make a movie. (AND they didn't show any nudity when he sexed his Dominican girlfriend. Wtf?)