As their Oscar-nominated "Half Nelson" proved, the writing-directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck can plunge into dramatically treacherous territory (teachers on drugs, in that case) and create cinema not just engagingly human but intellectually honest. Likewise "Sugar," a baseball movie, an immigrant parable and a thoroughly entertaining drama that accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of putting a fresh face on the fractured American Dream.
The dreamer here, Miguel "Sugar" Santos, is a product of Dominican Republic baseball (a system that takes several well-placed lumps via Boden-Fleck) who is closing in on the DR Dream: a career in the major leagues. That Miguel will get his signals crossed is inevitable, but not much else. The pressures on Dominican players and the hope-cum-desperation of someone like Miguel (splendid newcomer Algenis Perez Soto) are qualities that aren't so much pitched by Boden and Fleck as they are captured, the way someone might net a butterfly.
PLOT Dominican baseball prodigy pitches his way to the States, gets hit with metaphorical beanball.
CAST Algenis Perez Soto, Jaime Tirelli, Richard Bull
PLAYING AT Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington; Malverne Cinema 4; Kew Gardens Cinemas
BOTTOM LINE Honest, touching take on the American game, and the American Dream.