Published December 17, 2004
LOS ANGELES – From James L. Brooks, the man who brought us "As Good as It Gets" and "Terms of Endearment," comes another story of cultures clashing and the art of communicating.
In "Spanglish," (search) funnyman Adam Sandler (search) goes against type once again, playing a sensitive husband and accomplished chef struggling with an unhappy family and a new housekeeper who shakes things up.
"Nothing can be perfect, nothing will be perfect, it's too much life, mistakes are going to happen throughout the day and it's about living with mistakes and getting past them," the "Billy Madison" star told FOX News, describing the film as a tale about the conflicts that families face and how they deal with them.
"Spanglish" is really the story of beautiful Mexican immigrant Flor (Paz Vega (search)) trying to live among Americans without really being touched by the culture.
Flor's daughter, Cristina (Shelbie Bruce), provides voice-overs from the future that frame the story, from their crossing into the United States through their contentious life with the Claskys, a white, affluent Los Angeles family.
Landing a job as the Claskys' housekeeper, the xenophobic Flor is initially puzzled, later aghast, over her employers' behavior, particularly that of the neurotic lady of the house, Deborah (Téa Leoni, who is winning raves for her performance).
Deborah's under-appreciated hubby, John (Sandler), is an ace chef and restaurant owner who so sanely balances work and home life that he becomes miserable when a four-star review sends demand at his restaurant through the roof.
Deborah takes John for granted, harbors resentment toward her mother, Evelyn (Cloris Leachman), for a neglectful upbringing and deviously seeks to control her own two children, especially Bernice (Sarah Steele).
Appalled over Deborah's manipulations, Flor steps in to mother Bernice in her own way. Meanwhile, Deborah outrages Flor with her own attempts to play surrogate mom to the bright and earnest Cristina.
For Hollywood newcomer Vega, a big star in her native Spain, learning her lines was easier than figuring out what she was saying.
"When I arrived here last year, I didn't speak English. I was working in the movie, like four months without English, no English," Vega told FOX News.
Sandler added that his Spanish isn't much better — and he didn't learn to cook, either.
"I can cook, kinda, and when I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I could say 'Good night' to the guys pretty well," he said.
Associated Press movie writer David Germain gave "Spanglish" 3½ stars out of four, saying Brooks once again turns a slick sitcom story line into engaging big-screen fare.
"Brooks did it with 'Broadcast News' and 'As Good as It Gets,' and he does it again with 'Spanglish,' a culture-clash comic drama that rises above a forced scenario to present a rich, warm view of family ties both strengthening and decaying," Germain wrote.
Sandler thinks the film has something for everyone.
"Different people walk away with different things," he said. "A man says one thing about it, a woman says another. It's a story about mother-daughter, father-daughter, father-son, marriage, it's just got a lot of stuff in it."
FOX News' Mike Waco and The Associated Press contributed to this report.