Saturday, January 29, 2005

Review: Spanglish


There might be small spoilers in here, so if you're opposed to such things, stop reading now.

I watched Spanglish last night because my brain was fried and I was in dire need of a comedy. The movie was cute, I guess, but somewhat disappointing in that I only laughed a few times. Cloris Leachman is the one saving grace in the film; her character is the brazen, drunken old lady that we all love, the one family member who speaks her mind, no matter what.

I had a really hard time buying Adam Sandler in this movie. This may be because he usually plays happy goofballs, and his character in Spanglish seemed more serious than any of his previous roles. He does crack jokes, which are sometimes funny, and of course a movie with Adam Sandler wouldn't be complete without at least a little physical humor. One of the best parts of the movie is when he returns home, drunk off his ass, and has to hold onto the myriad of windchimes hanging in the backyard in order to walk without falling over.

I had a hard time buying Adam Sandler's character being married to Tea Leoni's character. I could have understood a little better if there had been something in the film to reconcile this, either a mention that one or both of them had changed, or their relationship dynamic had changed, over the years. I kept waiting for him to say, "I really miss how we were.. what happened to us?" That would have totally solved it for me, but no. I had a hard time understanding how anyone, much less a totally sensitive, caring, laid-back nice guy, would end up with a vain, self-obsessed control freak. I'm not saying it can't or doesn't happen, but it didn't make a lot of sense.

Part of the reason why this film was more depressing than comedic to me can be traced directly to Tea Leoni's character. I mainly saw the film to see her, because she is teh hawtness (and OMG check those freakin' ABS-O-STEEL), but her character was an awful, selfish bitch. In fact, it rather disturbed me because she was so like my mom, and I couldn't get over it. If anyone is curious why I'm such a self-obsessed weirdo, watch this movie, note the dynamic between Tea Leoni's character and her overweight daughter, and you pretty much have what my relationship with my mom was nearly all my life, at least while I was overweight. It's better now that I'm not 215 pounds, but a leopard doesn't change its spots. Tea Leoni's character was so my mom in so many ways, though thankfully, to my knowledge, at least my mom never purposely bought me clothes a size too small to 'encourage' me to lose weight. That was fucked up.

Whether it's my own personal connotations or not, Tea Leoni's character just totally ruined this movie for me. All I could do is feel terrible for everyone in her family that had to deal with her constant not-listening and plowing through everyone else, regardless of their feelings or wishes. Again, I don't get why a kind, laid-back guy would fall for her, much less want to stay in the marriage from hell. It would have been way more realistic had he told her he'd had enough, taken the kids, and gotten with the maid, Flor.

Flor, along with the rest of the characters in the film, seemed a caricature rather than an actual character. She has all these strong principles, but rather than it making her deeper and more human, there were times when her reactions to things seemed like the writers/director were more trying to drill into the audience's head: SHE HAS PRINCIPLES, SEE? SHE'S SUPER-STRONG, SEE? SEE??? About midway, I was kind of like, Come on, give me a break already. I found her character to be emotionally impenetrable, so it was difficult to truly understand or empathize with her. Toward the end, she admits something, but instead of being a touching moment, it was sort of like, "Huh? Where did that come from?" There was very little lead-up to it, so it was difficult to buy.

Flor also was set up in the film to be The Hottest Thing Since Sliced Bread, and instead of showing and letting you judge for yourself, they cram it down your throat at every turn. Yeah, she's attractive, but the "OMG, You're GORGEOUS" thing started to get really old. And, similar to The Truth About Cats and Dogs where they set up Janeane Garofolo's character to be ugly and then cram it down your throat the entire movie, I was left thinking, "What??" For one, I would pick Janeane over Uma any day, and who really would buy Janeane as ugly?? Secondly, yeah, Flor is pretty, but HELLLLOOO? Have you seen Tea Leoni? And those ABS? You can tell me someone is gorgeous or ugly, but if I don't see it, sorry, I don't buy it.

One other thing that majorly bothered me throughout the movie was the obvious use of blue screens during the driving scenes. It's like they didn't even try to cover up the fact they were using blue screens instead of actually filming the actors driving. It's beyond the simple use of blue screens, which I find usually somewhat obvious; the good use of them allows the viewer to dismiss the blue screen and try to believe they're really where they are. But it's so undeniably obvious in every single driving scene, to the point where, instead of paying attention to dialog or the scene, I kept thinking about how the actors were sitting in a car in the studio. Wondering how they got the car to bounce up and down, what the set actually looked like, and what they used to produce environmental effects (such as when Tea Leoni is in a convertible and her hair is blowing everywhere). Very, very poor use of blue screen.. it truly should not be that distracting.

I think the main flaw in this movie was there wasn't enough explaining or delving into the characters, so it was hard to truly understand or empathize with anyone. Save Cloris Leachman, because we find out that she was once an 'alcoholic, highly promiscuous' jazz singer, which, in combination with her judgemental control freak daughter, totally explains why she is the way she is. Her character is nearly the only one in the entire movie I found to be real and believable. She has some great lines, as well, which were the source of the two other laughs I had during the entire two hours and ten minutes.

You end up kind of hating Tea Leoni's character and her oblivious rich bitch mentality, feeling totally sorry for her family (and rooting for them to just leave her freak ass). I give this film like half a thumb up. Mainly because its only redeeming qualities are Cloris Leachman, and the eye candy that is Tea Leoni. If you feel you must see this movie, do yourself a favor; save yourself $8 and a trip to the theater, and rent it. That way you won't have to walk out.. you can just hit 'stop' and chuck the DVD against the wall.



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