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Genre: Comedy/Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
Written by:
Released by: Columbia Pictures

In Short: The new film from the director of “As Good As It Gets” is not as good as it gets, but it’s still worth a peek.

A Tale of Two Cultures
Moving Message Crosses Borders
By Andrew Bender

"Spanglish” starts with Flor (Paz Vega), a young mom and Mexican immigrant to Los Angeles, who gets a maid’s job in the ritzy Bel-Air home of star chef John (Adam Sandler) and his wife Deborah (Téa Leoni). From there, the clash of styles and cultures takes over, with some smart, 21st century results.

The wide-eyed Vega (the Spanish star of “Talk to Her” and “Sex and Lucia”) is phenomenal. She’s not simply gorgeous, she’s gorgeous, and she brings a nobility to the job (and the role) that every worker (and actor) should emulate. Equally watchable, Leoni’s Deborah has an intensity bordering on manic. She wears 70 SPF sunscreen, has to always be first — even on her morning jog — and delivers the funniest on-screen orgasm since “When Harry Met Sally.” Sarah Steele brings tremendous heart as John and Deborah’s daughter, and Cloris Leachman is a riot as Deborah’s mother.

The women all outclass John, however, which is unfortunate since he’s the linchpin of this movie. He’s caring. Generous. Fun. Sensitive. But he’s not a pushover, oh no, because he’s just trying to do right. Get it? Sandler’s even put on a few pounds to show how normal John is.

But was Sandler was meant to play normal? We loved him in “Punch Drunk Love” and the “Wedding Singer” (and sheepishly admit to loving “Happy Gilmore”). Minus the underlying goofiness of those films, we weren’t sensing much spark.

“Spanglish” still has plenty to recommend. L.A. looks bright and cheerful, and the film avoids the “Mmm, I’ve never tasted a taco before!” moments common to cross-cultural films (although we found it implausible that Flor could go from speaking no English to having meaningful conversations over the course of a few months). Most importantly, the family stories at the heart of the film are fun, timely and ultimately moving.

The kinds of movies made for foodies, including classics such as Like Water for Chocolate and newer releases like Chef and Ratatouille.

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