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PCR # 247  (Vol. 5, No. 51)  This edition is for the week of December 13--19, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"The Life Aquatic"  by Drew Reiber
Atlantis Found!
 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott
"Filthy" Unites Friends....Hey, '90s, Git Your Own Station!!!..."The Machinist"....New Wave Concert: Duran Duran/The Go-Go's...."Ocean's 12" Fells "Blade: Trinity"....Mark Biero....Bye Bayfront Center....Yes, Jeff Strand, You're Allowed to See That...."Mandatory Guidelines" for the Week:
 by Andy Lalino
Danger, Will Robinson
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Andy's Letter .... Congratulations .... Did Someone Say 20 Years? ... Meet The Beatles, Part 47
 by Mike Smith
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Columbia Pictures     
Starring: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega and Cloris Leachman
Directed by: James L. Brooks
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 15 mins

James L. Brooks has been responsible for some of the best television shows and films over the past 30 years. As the creative force behind "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Taxi," he was the architect behind the classic ensemble comedies. Branching out into movies, he won multiple Academy Awards for his very first venture, 1983s "Terms of Endearment." Over the years such films as "Broadcast News" and "As Good As It Gets" earned raves for their quality. Even the underrated "I'll Do Anything" is a classic combination of script and acting. I keep hoping they put it out on DVD with the original musical numbers, cut for the film's release, restored. For the younger crowd, he is also responsible for bringing animated classics like "The Simpsons" and "The Critic" to television. With his new film, "Spanglish," Brooks continues his winning ways.

"Spanglish" is told through the narration of a young Hispanic girl named Christina who has come to America with her mother Flor (Vega) illegally to start a new life. Though she speaks no English, Flor is hired to be the housekeeper of John and Deborah Clasky (Sandler and Leoni) and their young daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele). John is an up and coming chef who owns a little restaurant. Deborah is a woman in crisis. Feeling she is not getting the attention she deserves at home, she spends her days jogging. "Left!" she constantly yells at pedestrians in front of her, informing them that she is passing. Another member of the household is Deborah's mother, Evelyn (Leachman), a former jazz singer who has grown accustomed to a glass of wine or three daily, no matter the time. John is the nice guy every woman would want to marry. He dotes on his daughter and treats his restaurant employees like family. His big fear is that the LA Times food critic will give his restaurant a four star rating, turning the little place into chaos. Deborah on the other hand takes out her feelings on Bernice. When the child cooks up a nice batch of goodies, Deborah comments that it's the goodies that are making her fat. When she goes on a clothes shopping spree, Deborah deliberately buys clothes a size smaller then Bernice wears so that they appear ill fitting. Throughout all of this, Flor goes about her business, doing her job and understanding the situation even though she doesn't understand the language. Things go into overdrive when the family move to the beach for the summer, insisting that Flor bring her daughter. Thin, outgoing and attractive, Christina appears to be everything Bernice is not, and Deborah gravitates towards her, to the chagrin of both Flor and Bernice. As the summer progresses, it is obvious that what looks like a happy situation on the outside could suddenly turn sour without notice.

Once again, Brooks has created a story filled with fully developed characters. These people have hearts and souls, feel love and betrayal, joy and sadness. And the cast is up to the challenge of what the script requires. As in "Punch Drunk Love," Sandler proves that, with the right person guiding him, he is capable of much more than portraying the loveable buffoon. Vega, a star in Spain, does a fine job in a role that requires her to act more with her eyes and body than with words. Leachman could be on the way to her second Oscar nomination (she won in 1971 for "The Last Picture Show"). But it is Leoni who takes the prize in this film. Though I've enjoyed her work on television and the occasional film, I've always thought of her more as Mrs. David Duchovny. But, like Holly Hunter and Helen Hunt before her, Brooks has given her a character that runs the gamut of emotions, often simultaneously. I'm not sure if she will draw the Academy's attention like Hunter and Hunt did, but her performance is surely one of the best of the year. A comedy that makes you cry is a rarity. So is a drama that makes you laugh. "Spanglish" is even rarer. It's both.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give "Spanglish"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Spanglish" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.