Spanglish Movie Review
Looks can be deceiving. When the previews for "Spanglish" hit theaters last fall, presenting a comedy-drama starring the unlikely duo of Adam Sandler and Téa Leoni, I immediately nailed the film as the bore fest of the winter season. Never mind that the movie was from writer/director James L. Brooks, who pulled off the unlikely duo of Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in "As Good as It Gets." Mr. Brooks, I shall never doubt you again!
"Spanglish" is easily one of the most amusing and entertaining films of 2004. It isn't for Sandler fans and it isn't for people who want to be laughing non-stop from beginning to end, but it is for people who want to have a grin on their face the entire time. With a witty and sometimes quirky script and a great yet underestimated cast, "Spanglish" is easily one of the most overlooked gems of last year. The movie manages to be entertaining throughout its entire course, while superbly placing laugh-out-loud humor ever four minutes or so.
The plot is essentially that of an odd romantic comedy, about a husband, wife and beautiful housekeeper - only there really isn't any romance between the three individuals. John the husband (Sandler) is a successful gourmet chef who is a nice guy, a great dad and makes lots of money. His wife Deborah (Leoni) is a psychotic, neurotic and insensitive woman who is so frustrated that everyone is better and nicer than her that she has all but completely separated herself from her family. As for Flor the housekeeper, played by the luscious Paz Vega, she is the sanest woman in the household, but her inability to speak English (or perhaps more so the family's absolute inability to even learn one word in Spanish) causes for some tension. Though romantic sparks don't fly in the traditional sense, John and Flor hit up a plutonic relationship that verges on something more as they both attempt to vent their frustration over Deborah's antics.
The great thing about "Spanglish" is that it feels real, unlike 95 percent of romantic comedies out there. Sure, "Spanglish" is more of a drama-comedy as it deals with the more serious sides of marriage and so forth, but it doesn't end with some cliché reveal-your-feelings-at-the-airport kind of scene (sorry to those who are looking for that kind of thing). While it is still hard to accept Sandler in mature roles, he does the trick by giving us a likeable and sane character to treat as the protagonist. His performance, while coming close to overly goofy at the end, is strong, real and believable. Leoni, on the other hand, is over-the-top and annoying, but she's good enough that she actually pulls it off. Sure, her character isn't very likable, but she still manages to make us feel for her just a little bit. Of course, the real star of the show is Paz Vega, who absolutely sizzles on screen. She's so beautiful I couldn't take my eyes off her, and she also delivers a great performance in her first English-language role (even though she only speaks Spanish for the first half of the movie). Nice rack, too.
Okay, so "Spanglish" isn't completely believable. How many men get to choose between Téa Leoni and Paz Vega?
Another great performance comes in the form of Cloris Leachman, a.k.a. the grandmother. She is absolutely perfect in the role, delivering a quirky yet likable character who provides some logic to her troubled daughter despite the fact that she's a drunk. Enough said.
Don't be fooled by the previews - "Spanglish" is funny, entertaining and real. It's easily one of the better films of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.