Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Crap in any language

For maybe an hour, Spanglish is not as bad as everyone said. Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, and both of the girls are charming and eminently watchable. Tea Leoni does an excellent job of playing a fairly hateful person and appalling mother, as her character is apparently written. But what is this movie and what were they thinking when they made it? It starts off as one thing – a sort of dark, vaguely dramatic family comedy about neurotic white people and their mature, self-aware daughter. Sort of a Gilmore Girls/Teri Hatcher kinda thing but with an actual dad. I liked that movie for the 20 minutes it lasted. But when the "unfortunate Mexicans" arrive, it's not just Leoni's character who starts ignoring her complicated daughter in favor of the new girl with whom she can bond with cash – the filmmakers toss her aside as well, in favor of this awkward mess of bizarre racism. In helping Cristina and getting her into a good school, Leoni is doing a good thing, but she's doing it for all the wrong reasons – because she wants a surrogate daughter to replace her own awkward one, and because she must compete with everyone at all times (a fact hammered home by too many scenes of her trying to pass other joggers on the street). So how are we supposed to feel about her? Mostly I just wanted to see her on medication.

Oh but wait, in the middle we go back to the Sandler/Leoni marriage. Which I thought wasn't the point of the story, except as a metaphor about people speaking the same language but still not understanding each other. No, wait, we were supposed to care, apparently. And did I mention Cloris Leachman? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. What is her purpose in this movie? Why is she a drunk? And why is she playing a drunk in the most clich├ęd way imaginable? Oh and then she stops drinking. Did a flight attendant change the channel on us? What's happening here?

And, what? Flor has the hots for Sandler? Where the hell did that come from? And she wants to quit over it? Over that?? And not over her other boss who is a raving lunatic???

But then, the moment all the critics latched on to, in which Flor "selfishly" quits her job, resulting in her daughter's loss of her private school education, didn't seem like such a big deal. I mean, would you stay at your job if it was the most uncomfortable workplace ever, one boss was certifiable and you almost slept with the other boss and both bosses were busily buying your daughter? Cristina's temper tantrum made me hate her too! It's as if the critics were almost as racist as everyone else, going "How could she not take the kindly white people's money?"

In the end, the movie just offended me as a moviegoer (well, y'know, on a 737). It's astonishingly poorly structured and disjointed. It's just a mess. It's entirely unclear what story they're telling, and by the end pretty much every character looks selfish, nasty and hateful, except for the ones who didn't get much screen time, though I'm sure given time they would have turned evil too. What were they all thinking? Did no one read the script before signing on? And who picks the movies for airplanes anyway? There are some good things on the list for other routes – or at least fun bad things like Elektra – but this is a film that was universally panned and bound to offend half of the passengers in one way or another. I'd rather have watched Final Destination.

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