Spanglish written and directed by James L. Brooks, produced by Brooks, Julie Ansell and Richard Sakai, with Adam Sandler, Paz Vega and Téa Leoni. 100 minutes. A Columbia Pictures/Gracie Films production. A Columbia Pictures release. Opens Friday (December 17). Rating: NN
This movie is so peevish and full of venom, it makes you worry about James L. Brooks's emotional well-being. He wrote, directed and produced this ostensible comedy that pairs Adam Sandler's saintly chef with Téa Leoni's psycho-harpy housewife. Paz Vega plays Flor, the saintly Mexican maid who falls in star-crossed love with Sandler. There's also a quirky grandma played by Cloris Leachman, and some saintly kids who appear from time to time to underline their mother's inhumanity.
Leoni's character, Deborah, may be a stab at a female Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets; but Leoni's no Nicholson, and Brooks seems to have lost the sympathy that made Nicholson's character worth redeeming. The characters here are all drawn in broad, clumsy strokes, but Deborah is like something from de Kooning.
Nothing makes emotional sense. What are these people doing together? How did she get to be such an unmitigated monster, and where did her children learn to be such wholesome, adorable moppets?
Brooks apparently consulted extensively with the editor of Latina magazine to make sure his portrayal of Flor was accurate. That's laudable, but it didn't entirely pay off. Flor is admirable, upstanding, spirited, ear-thy and anything but nuanced. As for Sandler's performance, it's decent but dispiriting, like Jimmy Stewart in one of his less engaging vehicles.
A grating mess.