Oh, those wacky white folks! In James L. Brooks’s Spanglish, gorgeous Mexican maid Flor (Sex and Lucía‘s Paz Vega)—who no habla Inglés—and her young bilingual daughter Christina (Shelbie Bruce) move into the summer beach house of Flor’s employers, Deborah (Téa Leoni) and John Clasky (Adam Sandler), and immediately begin rolling their eyes at the affluent Caucasian couple’s bizarre behavior toward their kids and each other. Perplexed by Deborah’s cruelty toward her overweight daughter (Sarah Steele), amused by the antics of wine-guzzling grandma Evelyn (the delightful Cloris Leachman), and outraged by John’s exorbitant cash payment to Christina for collecting decorative sea glass he can use at his popular restaurant, Flor—who’s been living a sheltered life in one of L.A.‘s Hispanic barrios—stares at the strange Anglos as if they were outrageous zoo animals. Meanwhile, protective mom Flor goes overboard trying to prevent Christina from wholeheartedly assimilating into white culture for fear that she’ll lose her maternal bond with the child. Good grief. Brooks’s mushy, melodramatic sitcom-writ-large is hampered by liberal guilt regarding immigrants being forced to adopt their new country’s language, customs, and culture—by the end, the film reaffirms the importance of staying true to one’s roots over joining the melting pot—and is ultimately undone by Leoni’s unbearably neurotic, self-centered, adulterous Deborah. The film, structured as Christina’s college application essay to Princeton, is the type of manipulative, hokily triumphant immigration story designed to engender condescending sympathy and respect from minority-craving university admissions officials. Such embarrassing preciousness is found throughout Brooks’s dramedy, which also includes inane moments such as little barrio children enviously chanting “Malibu, Malibu!” as Christina is whisked away to her opulent new digs and the precocious young Mexican girl—who yearns to attend preppie boarding school and watch Charlie’s Angels with her fair-skinned friends—earnestly telling her new Mommy Warbucks, “You’re the most amazing white woman I’ve ever met!” Despite his character’s far-fetched romance with Flor, Sandler delivers the film’s message about the beautiful insanity of parenthood with sincere sweetness—ironically, the juvenile comedian comes across as the story’s most mature character—but by and large, Spanglish is cloying gibberish.
- James L. Brooks
- James L. Brooks
- Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele, Ian Hyland, Angela Goethals, Allen Covert
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