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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.27%
Worth A Look40.82%
Average: 28.57%
Pretty Bad: 12.24%
Total Crap: 5.1%

8 reviews, 50 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Ups and downs, good acting and bad, laughter and boredom."
3 stars

James L. Brooks is a well-respected man, having written and directed "Terms of Endearment," "Broadcast News," "I'll Do Anything" and "As Good As It Gets," not to mention being one of the creators of such beloved TV shows as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Taxi" and "The Simpsons." So it's unfortunate to see him make mistakes the way he does in "Spanglish."

This is an uneasy, tiring film, full of great material here, weighed down by mediocrity there. At the 90-minute mark, I thought, "Well, this is wrapping up nicely. A solid B-grade film if ever I saw one!" By the time the film actually ended, 40 minutes later, my sentiments were not nearly as charitable, and my assessment had dropped down to a C+. And there were STILL plot threads left unresolved.

The movie is narrated by young Cristina Moreno (Shelbie Bruce), a Mexican girl who traveled to Los Angeles with her beautiful mother Flor (Paz Vega) to find a better life for themselves. But only now, six years later, do they actually venture outside the Latino barrios of L.A. and into white America, when Flor is hired as a housekeeper and nanny for the Clasky family.

The Claskys are Deborah (Tea Leoni), a neurotic, self-absorbed woman who has recently been downsized from the professional world into the world of housewifery; and her husband John (Adam Sandler), a modest, easy-going chef who is just now becoming a celebrity for it. They have two children, Bernice (Sarah Steele) and Georgie (Ian Hyland), though I think the latter gets only about 90 seconds of screen time, and both youngsters disappear for a good half-hour of the movie. Deborah's mother Evelyn (Cloris Leachman), once a jazz recording star and now a full-time chipper alcoholic, lives with them in their sunny, spacious Los Angeles home.

Flor speaks barely a word of English but is able to take charge of the Clasky household nonetheless, retaining her own privacy -- the Claskys don't even know she has a daughter at first -- while she works. When Deborah criticizes Bernice for being slightly overweight, Flor comes to the rescue in a very sweet and endearing moment. Young Sarah Steele, making her first film appearance, is wonderfully real as the awkward tween Bernice, so full of life and personality. Paz Vega is beguiling as Flor, too, and so we have the makings of a good film here.

Alas, we are forced to spend time with John and Deborah Clasky, too. Deborah is an unlikable shrew masquerading as a "flawed character" with "issues." She's a hateful b-word, pure and simple, so caught up in her own self-doubt that she forgets anyone else exists. I kept wanting her to have an affair so that John would have an excuse to divorce her, except that John, inexplicably, is in love with her.

John is a far more likable character, but he is played by entirely the wrong actor. We are asked to accept Adam Sandler as a father and a world-famous chef. He is almost convincing in the former role; as the latter, he is not even close. Evidently his much-ballyhooed dramatic work in "Punch-Drunk Love" was a fluke, because his attempts at depth here are just embarrassing, like a stoner plucked out of a frat house to act opposite Sir John Gielgud in "Hamlet."

The plot ambles around a lot of areas, including John's growing affection for Flor, Flor's fierce protection of Cristina, Cristina's desire to be less sheltered, and Deborah's world-class jackassedness. Through it all there are incidents or scenes that are funny or effective. Most of what Cloris Leachman does as Evelyn is amusing, leading up to the moment she tells her daughter Deborah that "lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense." And there is one especially noteworthy scene between John, Cristina and Flor, an argument over how all the children are being raised, with Cristina providing translation and cutely enacting her mother's fiery sentiments.

But Brooks seems to think that giving characters self-doubt is the same as giving them an arc, when in fact that is only true if they somehow address, resolve or deal with their self-doubt. John, for example, doesn't want to be the world's top chef because he fears the pressure it will bring. He achieves the distinction anyway, though, and is soon crushed by the responsibilities of it, just as he feared. But does he learn how to cope with it, or root out the source of his self-doubt? Nope. He just doubts for a long time, and then the movie ends.

Too, the marriage of John and Deborah is a difficult one, a matter that is given a good deal of screen time. Yet in the final analysis we are left to guess what's going to happen to them, because the film has switched back to its original protagonist, Flor.

Don't waste my time, movie. Either tell someone's story or don't. Introducing characters and spending inordinate amounts of time dealing with them, only to abandon them in the end, is not acceptable.

And so the film is tragically uneven, filled with laughter sometimes and marred by impatient watch-checking other times. It needs to be trimmed, toned and focused better before it is put on public display -- but since it's too late for that, it probably just needs to be disregarded.

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originally posted: 12/20/04 14:25:35
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User Comments

3/30/16 Perplexed Lovely "Hollywood" story. I'm f/Latam;no Latin would pull her child f/a good school! 4 stars
7/12/12 Gaudencio Mucu Very good movie 4 stars
10/28/09 the dork knight Bullshit ending topedoes excellent work done by director and cast alike. 4 stars
8/06/09 Simon Brooks' writing infuses the characters with such sincere humanity, especially in dialogue 5 stars
7/24/08 Shaun Wallner Sandler makes some great films! 4 stars
1/10/07 johnnyfog Huh. Sandler and Leoni can act? Freaky 4 stars
11/05/06 misty I thought it was great. Actors seemed very real. 5 stars
10/06/06 chika the movie is interesting for me, i decide to analyze that movie as my thesis in my college 3 stars
8/28/06 Lily P Cool movie! GO AND SEE IT!! 4 stars
8/07/06 2007 titan poker titan poker 100$ 5 stars
7/10/06 Marty very good dialogue, takes a patient viewer tho 5 stars
7/08/06 NS BAD!!! I was enraged and dissapointed. 2 stars
6/05/06 mary not good 1 stars
5/02/06 Anthony Feor Sandler goes downhill even more 1 stars
4/02/06 Dog Surfer I'd give it 4 3/4 stars as would John Clasky. Paz Vega is wonderfully expressive. 5 stars
3/12/06 Shaun Wallner YAWN BOring 2 stars
11/30/05 Lauren loved the movie, especially the ending. No matter what happens, she'll still be proud, 5 stars
11/30/05 K NOT my kind of move...i LOVED it!! so will u 4 stars
11/28/05 Karen Manipulative nonsense 1 stars
11/26/05 Smitty I'm sorry, Vega is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen - her expressions are wonderful. 4 stars
8/30/05 ES That egg sandwich he made looked good, probably the best part of the movie 3 stars
8/15/05 KCobain Wow! Great ending that separates this from typical hollywood fare. 5 stars
8/08/05 George Jetson Muddled story; Sandler doesn't act, he just sort of mumbles his way through the scenes 2 stars
8/02/05 Ondrej Horror! Horror! One of the worst movies I have ever seen. 1 stars
6/23/05 azpinoy Paz Vega is very hot! 3 stars
6/23/05 Angie Erickson didn't care for this 2 stars
6/20/05 darick Would have been 4 but for the ending. 3 stars
6/04/05 The Mockingbird surprised my being really good, so heartfelt and hardly a false note 5 stars
5/28/05 Christina I fell in love with this movie! 5 stars
5/05/05 Taylor Fladgate Tried to like it...but couldn't. And, horrible ending. 3 stars
4/08/05 Scott Lamont Waaay better than I expected. Excellent character development, one and all. 4 stars
3/26/05 Denise sandler is great 4 stars
3/19/05 Rachel I laughed, cried, and wanted more Tea, Adam, Cloris, and Paz 5 stars
3/15/05 brody paz vega was good 4 stars
2/22/05 ELI Um...It was ok. Ending was sucky and I couldn't connect w/ anyone 3 stars
2/19/05 Jennifer DePoalo funny and cute, but could have improved the ending 3 stars
2/16/05 Melody Arneil Adam Sandler proves he can go on beyond the one note/potty humor films he's known for 4 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg Wow...Paz is beautiful. Sandler tries to hard to be meloncholy. 3 stars
1/29/05 govenar too melodramatic 3 stars
1/16/05 Jeff Anderson A big disappointment. Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, and especially Paz Vega are great however. 2 stars
1/08/05 Vicki Great actors, great director, promising premise but I was expecting more from the film. 4 stars
12/26/04 Sandya Swamy I truly enjoyed the film; it is one of the best American films I have seen in a while. 5 stars
12/23/04 Smitty THE perfect date movie, well cast & acted, excellent screenplay.Vega's closeups are amazing 4 stars
12/23/04 Emile S. Siman Needs to be trimmed--bad script. 2 stars
12/21/04 ramjan02 5 stars
12/13/04 Jim Lochner Very good not great 4 stars
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  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005



Directed by
  James L. Brooks

Written by
  James L. Brooks

  Adam Sandler
  Téa Leoni
  Cloris Leachman
  Paz Vega
  Allen Covert
  Ian Hyland

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