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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 Erik Childress

"It's Hard To Say No. But Never To James L. Brooks"
4 stars

Is there something we can do in the industry to force some filmmakers to work more? Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen almost have a movie-a-year. Steven Spielberg has an amazing habit of sometimes realizing two in a year.Then there are others like Cameron Crowe or one of his mentors, James L. Brooks, who make us sweat and salivate waiting for their next project and then giddy with excitement the minute we have a release date. Brooks, in particular believe it or not, has only made four films, three of which (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets) have been nominated for the Grand Oscar Prize. Then again, if it takes seven years to bang out a script as wonderful as Spanglish, take as much time as you need.

Like all Brooks pieces, Spanglish is a three-character arc with their own travails flavored by some splendid supporting turns. The story is narrated by the daughter of Paz Vega’s Flor (be sure to roll that “r”) as the longest college admission letter ever written. She tells of the fatherless struggles they braved in Mexico and how an illegal trip into the states led them to the Clasky family.

Deborah (Tea Leoni) is a shooting star riding through warp drive. At least, that’s how she talks and it’s usually before her brain has a chance to catch up. Her husband, John (Adam Sandler) is about to be dubbed the greatest chef in America. Their daughter, Bernice (Sarah Steele) could lose a few pounds and Deb is content to remind her about it. John is more the peaceful type, not playing good cop to gain his children’s favor, but because nothing gives him more joy than to see them happy.

Spanglish eases into the stories of these three people; each of them pulling their own chunk of life into the next and leaving very little room for a cursory plot. Brooks is so effortless with the story’s development that to reveal any of its roadblocks would be to spoil the agony of the tough choices they are forced to make and those that they wish they could.

When it comes to family dynamics and the quiet moments that formulate into our own moments of insanity, very few know how to do it better than Brooks. John making an honorable, but potentially misguided decision for Flor’s daughter leads to a confrontation of translation; not just of language and culture but the understanding of why parents react the way they do.

Brooks has focused on mother/daughter relationships in both Terms and As Good As It Gets, but here thrice so and then some. Deb’s meaning-well but disastrous relationship with hers turns to a Barbie doll-like kinship with Flor’s. And when she finds a way to blame all her insecurities on her hard-drinkin’ mother (Cloris Leachman), a former Jazz singer who lives with them, she is reminded bluntly how the past can be such hogwash if you don’t recognize the opportunity to save your future.

Sandler does some of the best work of his career here. Brooks hasn’t necessarily fashioned a character around his persona the way Paul Thomas Anderson did in Punch-Drunk Love. Instead he’s taken the softer side of Sandler and found a way to channel that seething anger into a true, unbridled emotion. The bedroom confrontation he has with Leoni is the best scene Sandler has ever played.

Leoni has always had her share of annoying audiences with deer-in-the-headlight dramatic turns. But she has shown a true flair for comedy. Deborah is the kind of Brooksian turn-your-attention to me neurotic messes that he’s awarded in the past to Shirley MacLaine and Holly Hunter. Leoni’s early motormouth scenes are tailor-fit for Oscar attention and she certainly succeeds in turning us off from her shrewish, insecure habits.

Even more mesmerizing is Paz Vega. Her exquisite beauty does not go unnoticed in the film and Brooks does a smart thing by eliminating our doubts right away as to why such a stunner would not be hooked up by now. Spending a good portion of the movie speaking in her native tongue, it’s incredible how fluently she’s able to communicate to us (if not always John and Deb) without Brooks having to resort to a single subtitle. Flor is not The Great Spanish Hope swooping in to save the Clasky family. In fact, things are probably worse off by the end of the film. But she’s also not a stereotypical tart or ignorant foreigner. She makes an effort to learn the language and the evolving complications of parenthood, but more importantly how the barriers of communication extend all borders.

Spanglish is, above all, a great human comedy. Brooks’ dialogue has such an exquisite complexion that the words will hit you with their originality and later translate into conversation such as the correlation between Flor’s name and the realities two of the characters are forced to choose between. Brooks knows how and when to leave his stories instead of wedging it into a falsely happy corner when a crack in the Earth has emerged. It doesn’t make it less satisfactory, only pragmatic which is often far more satisfying and how often can you say that about films these days? Which is why I am begging Mr. Brooks – please – on behalf of all the movie lovers out there, make more movies. Or take your time. They are certainly worth the wait.

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originally posted: 12/17/04 16:08:29
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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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