Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Spanglish

Posted on

Tea Leoni, Adam Sandler, ...
Spanglish: Bob Marshak

Spanglish

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
PG-13
runtime:
128 minutes
Wide Release Date:
12/17/04
performer:
Tea Leoni, Adam Sandler, Cloris Leachman, Paz Vega
director:
James L. Brooks
distributor:
Sony Pictures Entertainment
author:
James L. Brooks
genre:
Comedy, Romance

We gave it a D

When James L. Brooks makes a movie — which isn’t often — Oscar balloters tend to pay attention. His 1983 feature debut, ”Terms of Endearment,” won five golden guys; 1997’s ”As Good as It Gets” nabbed two. So what’s the handicapping like for ”Spanglish”? Right now, the self-doubting filmmaker sounds like he’s got no idea. He wrapped shooting in May, and asked to sum up the movie, he says, ”If I could do that, we would have had a trailer out already. I think I’ve never juggled so many characters.”

Adam Sandler plays John Clasky, a successful chef who becomes unhappily super-successful when his restaurant lands a four-star rating (a plotline Brooks helped authenticate by hanging out with celeb cook Thomas Keller). Meantime, the highly neurotic Mrs. Clasky (Téa Leoni) hires a beautiful, single-mom Latina housekeeper named Flor (Paz Vega, a Spanish film star making her English-language debut). Sparks fly between the husband and the help, and a cataclysmic domestic devolution begins. Says Brooks: ”I think at its core, it’s a romantic comedy. It has romance in it, and we’re trying to be funny. At a certain point, you don’t know how it’s going to end. You can’t figure out how it possibly could end. And that’s because I didn’t know, but I just kept on pursuing it.”

Brooks initially hired Anne Bancroft to play Leoni’s mother, a sharp-tongued alcoholic who used to be a jazz singer. But four weeks into shooting, Bancroft had to undergo minor surgery for an undisclosed problem. She couldn’t return to work in a timely fashion, so Cloris Leachman — an old Brooks pal from his days running ”The Mary Tyler Moore Show” — stepped in as a replacement (and in doing so, says Brooks, she asked, ”Why didn’t you just hire me in the first place?”). Says Leoni: ”The whole dynamic was changed. I had to figure out who I was all over again.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE Sandler’s chance to build on the prestige-project cred he first aimed for with ”Punch-Drunk Love.”