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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.27%
Worth A Look40.82%
Just Average: 28.57%
Pretty Crappy: 12.24%
Sucks: 5.1%

8 reviews, 50 user ratings

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by Robert Flaxman

"Lost in translation."
2 stars

If you were trying to pick a director for a film about the immigrant experience in present-day America, who would you choose for the project? I will go ahead and guess that regardless of which filmmaker you might actually choose, James L. Brooks – whose canon to date consists almost exclusively of stories about neurotic middle-class white people – would not be high on the list. Brooks has nonetheless taken the assignment on with Spanglish, a film that is still about neurotic white people – except that this time they’re rich, and also it pretends to be about something else.

A recent immigrant looking for a higher-paying job so she can spend more time with her daughter, Flor (Paz Vega) finds herself in the employ of the Clasky family as a housekeeper. The patriarch is John (Adam Sandler), a world-class chef; his wife is Deborah (Téa Leoni), an unfathomably unpleasant woman who seems to be hated by everyone in the film, and with good cause.

Truth be told, there have been few if any characters in the history of cinema more unlikable than Deborah, especially if we rule out the more murderous villains. Deborah is somehow both calculating and clueless; she can’t understand why her daughter would be upset by a gift of clothes several sizes too small and an exhortation to lose some weight, nor does it bother her in the slightest to go out with another man every night. All this might not be as bad if she actually learned something, but there is no sense that she does. Brooks essentially lets her off with a warning; by the end of the film, when she once again makes everything all about her, we are still expected to care, despite never having had a reason to do so.

Of course, the movie isn’t big on likable characters at all. John and Flor are the anchors, and it is their relationship – one that can actually be appreciated – that falls at the center of the story. But even then, he’s a total doormat for most of the film. Flor helps turn him around, just in time for Brooks to abandon that plot, and the film, without resolving anything.

Indeed, the lack of any apparent plot trajectory is easily the biggest problem with Spanglish. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “slice-of-life” films, but more needs to happen than this. Just as it seems that people are going to change and things are going to be resolved, Brooks shrugs his shoulders on about three plots at once and ends the film. Considering Spanglish is a good 130 minutes long, the lack of any significant resolution is simply inexcusable.

Sandler and Vega do make an appealing pair, which is why that plot is so frustrating. We want John to ditch Deborah – goodness knows he should – but we’re made to feel bad for rooting for it, because there are kids (woefully underused kids, but kids nonetheless). The other choice, however, is the idea that Deborah is in no way punished for her behavior, though Brooks has no real intention of showing us one way or the other. He has decided that the film is about Flor and her daughter – so even though the Claskys get a substantial portion of the screen time, it’s okay for them to be discarded without a second thought whenever Brooks feels like it.

Brooks should have stuck with what he knows. He surely identifies more with the Clasky family, making his embrace of Flor no less awkward than the one Deborah attempts and almost as patronizing. In a shockingly irrelevant framing device, the film is narrated by Flor’s daughter, who is applying to Princeton and supposedly explaining why her mother is the most influential person in her life. The question is really never answered, though. What about Flor makes her influential to her daughter? Is it that she resists the Anglo culture? It hardly seems that impressive, considering how unpleasant the people are with whom she comes in contact.

Brooks thinks that preserving one’s sense of self and cultural identity is the most important thing for someone coming to the melting pot of America – and he’s right. But just because he’s right doesn’t mean he does a good job of explaining his position. Spanglish isn’t a thesis on race relations, it’s two hours of zany, irritating white people and ten minutes of a Latino woman deciding that, in fact, she would rather not spend any more time with them – as though anybody else would.

Most of Brooks’ films have moments of human interaction that are enjoyable because they feel so genuine, but Spanglish can’t manage any of those either; it just seems to be banging caricatures together and hoping for sparks. A parade of bad characters doing stupid things, Spanglish feigns social commentary, but good luck actually finding any.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11350&reviewer=385
originally posted: 06/21/05 16:56:53
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User Comments

3/29/16 Perplexed Lovely "Hollywood" story. I'm f/Latam;no Latin would pull her child f/a good school! 4 stars
7/11/12 Gaudencio Mucu Very good movie 4 stars
10/27/09 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
7/23/08 Shaun Wallner Sandler makes some great films! 4 stars
1/09/07 johnnyfog Huh. Sandler and Leoni can act? Freaky 4 stars
11/04/06 misty I thought it was great. Actors seemed very real. 5 stars
10/05/06 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
7/07/06 NS BAD!!! I was enraged and dissapointed. 2 stars
6/04/06 mary not good 1 stars
5/01/06 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
3/11/06 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
11/27/05 Karen Manipulative nonsense 1 stars
11/25/05 Smitty I'm sorry, Vega is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen - her expressions are wonderful. 4 stars
8/29/05 ES That egg sandwich he made looked good, probably the best part of the movie 3 stars
8/14/05 KCobain Wow! Great ending that separates this from typical hollywood fare. 5 stars
8/07/05 George Jetson Muddled story; Sandler doesn't act, he just sort of mumbles his way through the scenes 2 stars
8/01/05 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
6/22/05 Angie Erickson didn't care for this 2 stars
6/20/05 darick Would have been 4 but for the ending. 3 stars
6/03/05 The Mockingbird surprised my being really good, so heartfelt and hardly a false note 5 stars
5/27/05 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
4/07/05 Scott Lamont Waaay better than I expected. Excellent character development, one and all. 4 stars
3/25/05 Denise sandler is great 4 stars
3/18/05 Rachel I laughed, cried, and wanted more Tea, Adam, Cloris, and Paz 5 stars
3/14/05 brody paz vega was good 4 stars
2/21/05 ELI Um...It was ok. Ending was sucky and I couldn't connect w/ anyone 3 stars
2/18/05 Jennifer DePoalo funny and cute, but could have improved the ending 3 stars
2/15/05 Melody Arneil Adam Sandler proves he can go on beyond the one note/potty humor films he's known for 4 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg Wow...Paz is beautiful. Sandler tries to hard to be meloncholy. 3 stars
1/28/05 govenar too melodramatic 3 stars
1/15/05 Jeff Anderson A big disappointment. Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, and especially Paz Vega are great however. 2 stars
1/07/05 Vicki Great actors, great director, promising premise but I was expecting more from the film. 4 stars
12/25/04 Sandya Swamy I truly enjoyed the film; it is one of the best American films I have seen in a while. 5 stars
12/22/04 Smitty THE perfect date movie, well cast & acted, excellent screenplay.Vega's closeups are amazing 4 stars
12/22/04 Emile S. Siman Needs to be trimmed--bad script. 2 stars
12/20/04 ramjan02 ramjan02@yahoo.com 5 stars
12/12/04 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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