Spanglish will seem familiar in many ways to those familiar with James L. Brooks' work. The thematic center of the film is the relationship between Flor (Paz Vega) and her daughter. The first 20 minutes of the film sets up their characters and shows how the daughter's command of English helps her Spanish-speaking mother communicate -- communication and miscommunication being the motifs of the film. Brooks establishes the emotional and psychological impasse confronting the low-key John Clasky (Adam Sandler) and the high-strung Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni), with admirably economic storytelling. The middle part of the film concerns how John and Deborah each deal with the communication problems they have with Flor, their new maid, making it clear that John has more patience and empathy. Brooks has always liked his characters, but Spanglish finds him doing something he has never done before -- passing judgment. Deborah is shown to be a monster who might be redeemable, but her moment of redemption seems too slight. The Clasky story ends on a very small note and is left mostly unresolved. The ending is unsatisfactory for the amount of time we spend with them. Conversely, the highly emotional climax of the story about Flor and her daughter does not fit because the audience's involvement in their story has been hijacked by the Clasky family. Sadly, for a film about the dangers of miscommunication, Brooks ends up suffering a communication breakdown with the audience.
by Perry Seibert review