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Spanglish /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Ian Hyland

Directed by: James L. Brooks

Produced by: Joan Bradshaw, Julie Ansell, James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai
Written by:
James L. Brooks
Distributor: Columbia Pictures



     I don’t have to enjoy the company of a set of characters to admire the film which they star in. Spanglish abuses this principle by not only containing some of the most annoying personalities in years, but also exemplifying bad filmmaking. For over two hours, I watched its diverse assortment of whiners complain like true idiots. Adding to this awfulness is the work of writer/director James L. Brooks, who, in addition to constructing poor dialogue, muddles the movie up in contradicting ideas and unbearable melodrama. The more one thinks about Spanglish, the worse. The movie represents an infinite galaxy of awfulness, waiting to be discovered.

     Spanglish stars an illegal alien from Mexico, named Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), and her daughter, Christina (Shelbie Bruce). Flor hops the American border with Christina, after her husband leaves her, and they make for L.A. There, she ends up working as a maid for the Claskys, the stereotypical, stuck-up, rich, white American family. They are in a state of inner-turmoil, at the moment. John (Adam Sandler) is the man of the house, in addition to being a world-renowned chef, who must continually spend more time at his four-star restaurant and less time with his family. Deborah (Téa Leoni) is the clueless mother, who confuses her dreams for her family as their own. Their two children are named Bernice (Sarah Steele) and Georgie (Ian Hyland).

     The film is actually somewhat likeable, for awhile. However, when the Claskys bring Flor and Christina on vacation with them to their beach-house, Spanglish takes a nose-dive. There, Christina begins to become Americanized, much to the dismay of her traditionalist Mexicana mother. Also, a small, bizarre affair between Flor and John begins to brew. This is further “developed” in the conclusion of the film. For having hardly any plot, whatsoever, Spanglish certainly accomplishes a lot, none of which is any good.

     John is a whiner because he constantly complains about having a great life. Deborah is a whiner because she is unwilling to accept imperfection, while being imperfect, herself. Georgie is a beginning whiner because of his parents’ spoiling him. Flor is a whiner because she has been blessed with a job in an accepting America, despite the fact that she does the government no good, and is still angry when her daughter tries to adapt to the new culture. The only characters in the movie who seemed at all human to me were Bernice and Christina, who amazingly survive the wrath of the incoherent people who surround them. Cloris Leachman plays Deborah’s very wise alchoholic mother. And don’t tell me that I’m wrong in calling her this. Anyone who has the sense to drink their way out of Spanglish’s annoyance is an extremely intelligent one.

     I suppose Téa Leoni and Paz Vega deliver good performances in Spanglish, but I fault them entirely for choosing such good-for-nothing characters to play. Perhaps they wanted to create some sort of “groundbreaking” political message that the illegal Mexican worker is a better asset to America than the standard, U.S. born citizen. Even if this was the case, the movie didn’t change my strict thoughts on the issue of border control in the least. I went into it thinking that illegal immigrants were undeserving of American jobs, and came out with the same opinion, perhaps even stronger than it was before.

     I wouldn’t call Spanglish a missed opportunity, because I don’t think it takes a wizard to realize just how bad the script actually is. Why didn’t anyone at the studio stop to think about green-lighting the picture? Sure, it was made by a very successful filmmaker and has a usually-appealing list of names for a cast. But, again, I come back to my original point. Who wants to see a movie about whiners other than whiners, themselves? Watching Spanglish, I wasn’t sure whether to cover my eyes or my ears, because, frankly, either way, I was doomed.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (Posted in 12.28.2004-2.5.2005 Update)

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