A Film Review By Jason L. King
|Rating:Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language
Starring:Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega
Directed By:James L. Brooks
It seems every year there are films that want to be Oscar contenders that don’t really belong. They try and try to build them up, but in the end it’s easy to spot which films are trying to be Oscar posers. Like playing “which of these things doesn’t belong” with Big Bird on Sesame Street, we as film audiences have to figure out which films really don’t deserve that big chance at the top Awards shows.
Writer and Director James L. Brooks has seen the Oscar Red Carpet before and has received a few academy awards. This year he tries again by teaming up with Adam Sandler and newcomer Paz Vega in Spanglish. Spanglish tells the tale of a rich Los Angeles family who hires a Mexican Immigrant maid to help out with the family. Their new maid, Flor, has a lot to learn. Even though the family she works for looks happy on the outside,it is really hurting on the inside. Successful chef John (Adam Sandler) is having trouble with his insecure wife (Tea Leoni) and their emotional problems are making troubles for their kids as well. With a tale told through the eyes of Flor’s young daughter (who eventually comes to live with the Clasky family and her mother) Spanglish tells the tale of the not so perfect American family.
Spanglish was very hit and miss for me. First off, I would like to say James L. Brooks at times could be a genius when it comes to writing. Brooks has a brilliant style that allows him to make some great laughs out of life’s subtle moments. Mannerisms, and just everyday, run of the mill ordinary stuff is what Brooks hones in on and lets his comedy flow around those moments. He does a great job with this and I think that is what gives Spanglish its great charm.
For the last few years I have been poking fun at Adam Sandler. I multiple times can be quoted on saying that he is an actor who needs to hang it up. As I have said before, “No one wants to see a 50 year old Adam Sandler saying things like “Abbie Doobie.”” It would be a shame. I have also said, I really hope Sandler will take a chance and try some different roles. Sandler surprised me with Spanglish. This is a step in the right direction. While I admit to loving Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore just as much as the next 23-year-old, I really like this career choice for Sandler. It’s still a comedy, but it’s a far more serious comedy than he has ever done. Sandler hits one out of the park with some great humorous moments and some solid character acting as well. Well-Done Mr. Sandler, Well Done.
As for the rest of his cast, we get to see a great performance from newcomer Paz Vega. The actress, who sort of resembles Penelope Cruz, does a wonderful job in the role of Mexican Immigrant worker Flor Moreno. She has a natural talent and I hope to see more of her in the future. As for Tea Leoni, who plays Sandler’s wife, I found her to be an annoyance. I lived in pretty much a Tea Leoni free environment up until this film (I swore never again since Jurassic Park 3) and I forgot how nice it was without her. I wasn’t convinced by her performance and I found her more of a distraction than anything else. I really think they could have found a better actress for the spot. Naomi Watts comes to mind, but even Jude Law in a dress would have worked better. Besides, Jude Law probably would have done it; he’s been in nearly every other film this year!
My problem with Spanglish is that it wore out it’s welcome fairly fast. I felt that the plot moved slowly, and that it went in this circle and never really accomplished anything. By the conclusion of the film I realized there was easily at least 20 minutes you could have cut out of the film. Throughout the first half of the film, I enjoyed most of the characters, the performances and had a good time with the film. But then it started to feel as though it was dragging on, and we were seeing once again, the same things in just a new situation. By the 10th time you see Sandler pretty much spelling out in not so many words to Vega “My role is the sensitive father who says funny things, my wife is a raging psycho B—” you have the point and want a conclusion. But Brooks sells us short and doesn’t really give us a conclusion at all. Instead he leaves the film open-ended and leaves audiences guessing. Brooks doesn’t give you the “happy ending” you expect from the first half.
In the end, Spanglish wants to be an Oscar contender, but it doesn’t really fit in. I had a decent time while watching the film. I really like Sandler and think he made a great move by signing up for this film. I enjoyed watching Paz Vega on the screen, and I even enjoyed some of the quirks that go with a James L. Brooks script. But it was an easily forgettable film and nothing really special. Save your cash, pick it up as a rental. The experience will be the same on the Small screen as it is on the big one.