Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Spanglish

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2004 at 12:00 AM

There are a million stories out there. A million stories about those who follow the exodus out of Mexico and strike out for a life in the United States — tragedies, comedies, adventures and melodramas that are rich in meaning. Spanglish is not one of them.

Although masquerading as a poignant story, don’t let it fool you. Spanglish is about rich, neurotic and shallow Californians as white as the driven snow. These are Californians in need of a savior, and that savior takes the form of Flor (Paz Vega). She’s a housekeeper and nanny for the Clasky family, who have the audacity to not be poor — but that’s just a front. Flor really is the Second Coming: perfect, virtuous, noble and compassionate. Unhindered by sin and pettiness, Flor teaches a California family the true meaning of life. And she’s a stone-cold fox to boot.

Flor of Nazareth. White People Suck. Tea Leoni Presents: How to Overact but Still Find the Time to Learn Something About Yourself While Jogging and Corrupting Your Housekeeper’s Daughter by Buying Her a Necklace. These are titles director James Brooks (whose previous work on The Simpsons and Terms of Endearment may have given him a wee bit of overconfidence) should have considered for this abortion of a film. Oh, the critics will love this one though. Roger Ebert will get so warm-hearted over this phony crap that he’ll hardly have the energy to raise that quivering thumb of his.

It’s a miracle the Clasky family can even function. You’ve got Momma Clasky (Tea Leoni), a woman who is so fucked up that even her orgasms are a grotesque symphony to bipolarism. There’s Poppa Clasky (Adam Sandler), a man so bumbling, insecure and self-effacing it’s no wonder he’s also “the greatest chef in America,” as proclaimed by The New York Times. When his daughter (Sarah Steele), with tears streaming down her face, reads the review of Daddy Clasky’s restaurant, as he uncomfortably listens with an aw-shucks expression, you’ll either glow with Hallmark-card serenity or puke your popcorn in the aisle.

But the dad is trapped in a suburban nightmare of swimming pools and SUVs and summer rental houses. Dear God, when will Flor come and save this unloved, underappreciated and ridiculously successful fool? Further adding to the dysfunction, Daughter Clasky is a chubby teenager who talks like an adult and feels like an adult and is as knowing and understanding as an adult but unfortunately looks like a cross between Amy Carter and Chelsea Clinton — and Momma Clasky is always putting her down. Oh, Flor, come and save this beautiful wretch. Smile at her and teach her patience. Then there’s Grandma Clasky (Cloris Leachman), a retired jazz singer who drinks a lot. She looks great for an old lush. Flor may not teach Grandma much about life, but she will give Grandma a sly opportunity to finally show her spazzy daughter what a real woman is about.

Flor and her daughter Cristina (Shelby Bruce) came from Mexico to make things right, to show these soulless pigs the error of their ways. Everyone learns their lessons, and Flor and her daughter ascend to heaven as her previous employers look on in wonder, holding each other tight as their house and car and swimming pool crumble to the earth. Well, sort of.

Dan DeMaggio writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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