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Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Casual Critic — Spanglish

Adam Sandler took on a rare dramatic role in Spanglish, and though he did a decent job of pulling it off there isn't a lot of other even mild positives in this movie. The first 45 minutes of the film, can only be categorized as odd, drags on only to offer those who stay with it little reward.

Spanglish depicts the Clasky family as it is essentially falling apart . . . sort of. The film's biggest problem is that it spends too much time early on with the woman who eventually becomes the Clasky's housekeeper and her daughter, characters that were no doubt meant as catalysts for change by the family. In fact, opening and closing narration would lead you to believe this was their story, but they merely become tangled up in the bizarre family dynamic the film tries to offer up for your entertainment. If you're confused, I'm right there with you.

The relationship between John Clasky (Sandler) and his daughter (Sarah Steele) salvages the film. They seem to get that their wife/mother (Te'a Leoni) is too wrapped up in herself to offer them much, so they latch on to each other. However, this relationship wasn't explored nearly enough.

Leoni's character may be a microcosm of why Spanglish comes up short. There's simply nothing for the audience to grab on to as far understanding where this superficial-whack-job-who-attempts-to-takeover-the-housekeeper's-daughter-because-she's-more-of-what-she-wants-in-a-daughter-than-her-own-daughter . . . phew . . . is coming from, until she blames her mother's alcoholism at the very end by which time nobody cares.

Evelyn Norwich plays the kooky, alcoholic grandmother who used to be a famous singer. Like the housekeeper and her daughter, this character at least seems to have a job in the film — comic relief with a touch of wisdom. Unfortunately, it was too obvious to work.

Thanks to Sandler and Steele, Spanglish is barely something to watch for fun while looking for something better.

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