Spanglish [2004]

Director: James L. Brooks
Actors: Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce
Runtime: 131 minutes

Anyone familiar with writer/director James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets) knows the man has a real feel for interesting women and a disarming way with a one-liner. The main women in Spanglish are Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni), a moneyed SoCal mom, and non-English speaking Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), the beautiful Latina whom Deborah hires as a housekeeper. The one-liners, some of them amusing, are everywhere. Brooks provides an intriguing set-up for the two women to butt heads--Deborah's pudgy daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele) needs the affection at which Flor excels, while Flor's clever, bi-lingual daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) is enamored of the financial advantages Deborah can provide--then proceeds to make Deborah so hatefully ignorant you can't imagine why her neuroses are the main thrust of the film. And Deborah's celebrated chef husband John (Adam Sandler, way over his head) is such a perfect parent he doesn't seem human--what happened to the Brooks who had Terms of Endearment mom Debra Winger turn to her scowling little boy and grunt "Don't make me hit you in the street"? Cloris Leachman has a nifty supporting role as Deborah's boozy, ex-jazz singer mother, but it's only one offbeat chord in an earnest film that hits all the wrong notes. --Steve Wiecking

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