Directed by: James L. Brooks
Written by:James L. Brooks
Starring: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce
Released: February 17, 2005
Grade: B

The last film of writer-director James L. Brooks was As Good As It Gets in 1997.  It was a very entertaining comedy and earned Academy Awards for stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.  Given his strong reputation, there were many looking forward to catching his latest production, Spanglish.

John Clasky (Sandler) is a renowned chef living in Los Angeles.  As happy as he should be, there’s one person always dragging him down – his wife, Deborah (Leoni).  Deb is a complete neurotic.  She never shuts up, is insensitive to her children, ignores the needs of her husband and is lousy in bed.  She may sound like a nasty piece of work but this is just how Deb is – the screenplay makes you feel slightly sympathetic towards her.

Looking for a new housemaid, John and Deborah find Flor (Vega), a young Mexican mother who can’t speak a word of English.  Not able to understand the troubles going on around her, Flor goes about her daily chores.  Things change though when John and Deb rent a holiday home for the summer and ask Flor and her daughter, Christina (Bruce), to come along.

With Christina able to speak English, Flor finally understand what this family is all about.  She feels sorry for John as he’s a sweet family man who is being dominated by a demanding wife.  After taking a home English course, she’s soon able to communicate with them all and an intriguing relationship will develop with all of them…

Like other Brooks films, there are some witty one-liners and intelligent conversations, particularly in the early stages of the film.  Unfortunately, things unravel in the final hour.  The characters become dumb and boring.  I didn’t at all understand why the film panned out the way it did and what Brooks was trying to say.  Was it a happy ending or an unhappy ending?  After developing them early in the piece, what became of John and Deb’s children?

This isn’t at all a strong cast.  Tea Leoni is too over-the-top and her sobbing and ranting in the finale was terribly distracting.  As for Adam Sandler, I like his attempt to try a different role (as he did in Punch Drunk Love) but this is not for him.  Playing the suppressed husband is not in his repertoire.

A poor performer at the U.S. box-office, Spanglish isn’t hitting the same successful notes that As Good As It Gets could manager.  Worth a look… but only just.