Spanglish (2004)

by | Jul 2, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Spanglish (2004)

Starring:  Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman
Studio:  Columbia Pictures
Video:  1.85:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio:  DD 5.1, French 5.1
Extras:  Audio Commentary, Additional Scenes w/ Commentary (12!),
The Making of Spanglish (12 min), Casting Sessions (4 min), How to Make
the World’s Greatest Sandwich, DVD-ROM Shooting Script, Previews
Length:  131 minutes
Rating:  ***1/2 (first half of film), ** (second half of film)

John Clasky is a star chef and can afford to live the good life
including his own restaurant, a summer home in Malibu, and a fulltime
housekeeper.  His wife (who is a Type A personality and a bit
nutty) hires a young woman who can barely speak a breath of
English.  This sets up the story for a comparison between the
cultures and socio-economic differences that exist between the
high-powered WASP-y wife and the recent immigrant from Mexico including
the differences in how they relate to their children.  The
difficulties between husband and wife and wife and daughter are
aggravated when the new addition enters the household.  The
grandmother (played by Cloris Leachman) who lives with the family is
the linchpin of good advice and a delight to watch even though her
character is not a shining example of healthy living.

From the beginning of the film, when a college applications reader is
sifting through the pompous, egotistical, overly dramatic essays, we
are treated to a bit of the humor that will make this film stand
out.  The light, don’t-take-yourself-seriously atmosphere pervades
the early part of the film while painting an interesting and
intelligent dramatic plotline.  All of this is soon abandoned
somewhere in the middle of the film.  It’s as if the first half is
written and directed by a happy fellow, and the latter half by a
middle-aged bitter divorcee.  In the first part of the film, the
viewer is shown possibilities, spirit, and perseverance.  In the
second part, the scenes are long and drawn out, the joy and laughter is
replaced with sadness, jealousy, and anger and in parts it becomes
painful to watch.  Even the portrayal of non-fiction can be made
much more entertaining (if that is indeed the goal—to show things how
they can really be.) 

I have no problems with the cast who do as good a job as can be
expected, with perhaps a slight reservation with Adam Sandler being the
lead character.  I’m encouraged by his late attempts to transition
from comedy to becoming a more serious dramatic actor.  In films
like Fifty First Dates I think he is succeeding, while in other movies
like Punch-Drunk Love the viewer is not wholly convinced.  Think
of the first half as the former and the second half of Spanglish as the
latter.  James L. Brooks has directed some first-rate films like
Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets, and Terms of Endearment.  In
this film he is producer, writer, and director.  It’s interesting
to note that the female lead character played by Paz Vega in fact
mirrors her experience working on this film.  She came to the
United States to play the role and knew little if no English.  Her
character—like the others—is not the problem.  It is the change in
mood of the film that manages to shoot itself in the foot. 
Another indication that the film was drifting from its path is the
voiceover done to the point that it is necessary to explain to the
viewer what is happening and tie up the loose ends.  What starts
out as one film twists into something completely different.  Be
aware of this if you were sold on this film for its comedic
aspects.  I might point out that this is entirely similar to As
Good As It Gets.  Perhaps I missed the humor of a man who has a
psychological disorder, another man who is abused and taken advantage
of due to his sexual preference, and a woman who is unable to get her
child proper healthcare due to her economic bracket and must watch him
suffer needlessly.  Of course, it can be excused because that film
is good in so many other ways.  This film is not.

-Brian Bloom

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