Spanglish (2004)

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Released 15-Jun-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers' - James L. Brooks, Richard Marks & Tia Nolan
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-HBO First Look
Featurette-Casting Sessions, With Optional Commentary
Featurette-How To Make The World's Greatest Sandwich
DVD-ROM Extras-Screenplay
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 125:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By James L. Brooks
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Adam Sandler
Téa Leoni
Paz Vega
Cloris Leachman
Shelbie Bruce
Sarah Steele
Ian Hyland
Victoria Luna
Cecilia Suárez
Ricardo Molina
Brenda Canela
Eddy Martin
Nicole Nieth
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Hans Zimmer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Hindi
Icelandic
Norwegian
Portuguese
Romanian
Serbian
Slovenian
Swedish
Turkish
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, small text joke at end of credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    If you are a regular reader of the reviews at Michael D's you will know that our coverage is rather catholic, and the reviewers here cover a wide range of DVDs in our travels. Sometimes we review discs that would not be first (or even ninth) choice personal purchases, but occasionally we are lucky enough to review a disc that is high on our "wanted" list. I was really looking forward to the arrival of Spanglish on DVD, and if you will spare me the indulgence I will tell you why.

    To start with I am a big fan of writer-director James L. Brooks, who has a small but distinguished filmography that includes titles such as Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets. Next, I have been impressed with the way Adam Sandler has matured over the course of his career, and after enjoying his performances in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates was curious to see how he would fare here. My wife provided the third reason for wanting to see this movie - she is a fan of Tea Leoni (that must be a small group?) from her appearance in Bad Boys, through a hilarious guest starring role in an episode of The X-Files with husband David Duchovny (we even liked her in Jurassic Park III). Finally, I had intended to watch this film at the cinema, but in spite of some pretty good local reviews it had a very short run and I managed to leave my attendance so late that I missed it.

    Well, luckily, we generally see films arriving on DVD pretty soon after their cinema run, so I didn't have long to wait. After all the anticipation, this had to be either a major let down or a very enjoyable experience; to spare you the melodrama - I thoroughly enjoyed both the film and the DVD. The film itself has generated very mixed reactions, especially in the United States. After I have given you a quick summary of what it is about I will add my fuel to the fire.

    While I can summarise the plot in a few words, I should caution you that this will not do justice to a rich and complex film that rewards multiple viewing. It is a film which follows a young Mexican woman (Flor) and her daughter (Cristina) through their interaction with American society in the form of the dysfunctional family Flor works for as a maid. Husband John Clasky (Sandler) is an award winning chef who has fled fame in New York for a quieter life (or so he hopes) in California. His hyperactive (OK - neurotic) wife Deborah (Leoni) takes a liking to Cristina and is soon trying to run her life, to the exasperation of Flor. While the film is essentially a comedy-romance, with dramatic moments, the attraction which grows between Clasky and Flor takes some time to build, and is resolved in a rather unexpected way.

    The negative criticisms of the film I had seen prior to viewing tended to single out one element or another that they felt was unrealistic. For my own part I was very impressed with the way the film manages to examine issues as diverse as migrants trying to cope in a strange land, family values, modern life clashing with traditional life and the meaning and value of fame (amongst other issues) and keep it all light and entertaining. The migrant issue alone will resonate with many Australians; I grew up with my mother struggling to learn English and have first hand experience of what it is like for a proud young woman to have to depend on her children to translate all communication with the unfamiliar world in which she lives (I should mention here that a significant part of the film is in Spanish, and the director uses facial expression, gesture and context brilliantly so that we never feel lost as to what is going on).

    The cast are uniformly excellent. Unlike some critics, I was very impressed with the manic energy Leoni brings to the role of Deborah. While at times she verges on caricature there is just enough vulnerability showing through to make her family relationships believable. Spanish star Paz Vega is brilliant (and beautiful) as Flor, and as she was learning English over the course of filming brings some authenticity to the role. Debutant Shelbie Bruce is impressive as Cristina (Brooks calls her performance "a miracle" during the Audio Commentary) and veteran actor Cloris Leachman proves an interesting choice in the part of Deborah's mother (she replaced Anne Bancroft who fell ill during filming).

    Finally, I would like to spend a moment considering the part played, with some sympathy, by Adam Sandler. Some critics have suggested that he too portrays a caricature, rather than a believable father. It is a shame that in these cynical times people find it hard to relate to a calm, decent family man. Surely many males out there can identify with his struggles to deal with responsibility, and his problems at home and work, when he sits with head in hand and calls out "Great God in Heaven, save me". Luckily for him, Flor walks in at that moment and does just that, though not in the way that most viewers might expect (perhaps this departure from the Hollywood formula has led, in part, to the mixed reaction to this film).

    I haven't taken the time to look back over the 70-odd reviews I have on the site so far, but I suspect that this might be the highest rating I have given a DVD to date. Apart from thoroughly enjoying the film, there is a great selection of extras which add to the appreciation of the main feature, and the picture and sound are both fine. While making a recommendation is always risky, I think that in this case anyone renting Spanglish should likely consider the money well spent, and if you like the body of work from the director this may well be worth adding to your collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer on this disc is very good, as befits a film made only last year.

    The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is the correct theatrical release ratio.

    The picture is bright and acceptably sharp, though the focus is slightly soft for my liking. Shadow detail is also mixed - check out the scenes on the beach at 48:50 as an example. There is no low level noise.

    The colours are bright and vibrant, as in the balcony scene at 46:40. Also, check out that egg sandwich at 56:57 - if that doesn't get your mouth watering nothing will (if it does, take a look at the Extras for a full guide to making one for yourself). Flesh tones (always a good test for film colour) look natural.

    The picture is in very good shape, with only the occasional very small positive artefact on view. There is also some minor aliasing (as at 73:18 on the school steps and on some window shutters late in the film).

    From the many subtitle choices, I viewed segments of the film with the 'English Captions' option (more commonly known elsewhere as English for the Hearing Impaired). They are very good on this disc, with good coverage of dialogue and excellent cues for non-dialogue audio. The subtitles don't translate any of the Spanish dialogue - Brooks really wants to put us in the Clasky family's shoes in dealing with Flor, though you do get some hints if you listen to the Audio Commentary for the main feature or the deleted scenes.

    The layer change takes place at 72:40 and was a little disruptive on my equipment (it also caused a jump in the Audio Commentary when I listened to it).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer on this disc is good, without being particularly notable. This is a dialogue-driven picture and so the effect is subtle, rather than spectacular.

    There are four audio tracks available here, including the mono Dolby Digital 2.0 English Audio Commentary. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track (encoded at a bitrate of 448 Kb/s) in its entirety and to lengthy segments of the Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track (also encoded at 448 Kb/s). For a time I thought the Spanish track was faulty, until I realised that only the narration changes to Spanish with this option - Spanish (naturally) stays 'as is', while the English dialogue is not dubbed, but has Spanish subtitles. Uncommonly (but most welcome) there is also an English Descriptive Audio track - it is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448 Kb/s. While the descriptive audio is a little too 'BBC English' (it veers towards Monty Python at times), it is very well done and almost worth listening to in its entirety for the alternative interpretation it provides to the on-screen action.

    Given its importance to the film I am glad to report that dialogue is generally crisp and clear, with good audio sync. There is the odd mumbled moment but this is infrequent.

    The music is by noted film composer Hans Zimmer; it is subtle, but effective. Overall balance with the rest of the audio track is very good. There is some interesting discussion during the Audio Commentary highlighting scenes where the music really carries the emotion of the moment.

    To be honest, the surround presence is limited, though there is a 'warm' feel to the audio ambience (sorry, I can't find a better way to describe it). This is a subtle use of the surround channels, so subtle that you may well miss it. As you might expect your subwoofer will do little here, except provide minor bass activity if it is configured to do so.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras on this disc are very good, and do just what I think an extras package should: provide a comprehensive and interesting adjunct to the main feature, enhancing our appreciation of it while providing insights into the film-making process. As a very minor aside, I find it curious that we don't get to see the Theatrical Trailer. At one time, that was the only extra to adorn many discs - now we seem to be getting some feature-packed DVDs lacking that one small extra. Personally I like to see the trailer as it gives some indication of the marketing campaign behind the film, and so an idea of what people might expect walking into the theatre (or picking up the DVD).

Menu

    The menu has minor animation, comes with audio, and is 16x9 enhanced. From it you can Play the Movie, go to Scene Selection (more on this shortly), Set Up Audio, enable Subtitles and go to the Special Features. There are 28 scenes in Scene Selection. They are chosen from multiple pages, using shells on a beach scene as arrows between the pages, which is less than obvious at first glance. The Special Features are also spread across 3 pages, possibly leading to more menu navigation than was really needed.

Audio Commentary

    The audio commentary is provided by writer-director Brooks (who dominates proceedings), Editor and Co-Producer Richard Marks and Co-Editor Tia Nolan (who seems to have been added purely to obtain feminine input into the proceedings). While there are occasional lengthy pauses, this is an entertaining and informative look at the film, particularly effective in providing insight into the editing process and all of the influences on it (including the use of 13 previews of the film prior to its release). There is an interesting discussion on a key shift in the depiction of the romantic elements in the film between conception and realisation, and in a humorous moment the proud director points out a special effects shot while noting "Okay, it's not Matrix". As an aside, on my equipment English subtitles defaulted to ON when I viewed the film with the Commentary.

Additional Scenes

    After spending many painful months in the editing room, Brooks expresses some amusement for the term 'Director's Cut', though it may well be that he has more influence on the shape of the initial release version of his films than some other directors. He seems to prefer the 'deleted scenes' approach - there are a dozen of these, and they run for 30:46 when viewed with audio commentary. If you want to watch them without the commentary you are forced to select them one at a time. They are a useful adjunct to the main feature, probably best left out as a whole, but adding some background context for fans of the main feature. My vote for 'bad editing decision' is Scene 7 - it should have been left in (if you watch them, let me know if you think so too).

HBO First Look: The Making of Spanglish

    Presented at an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, this is a relatively short (13:01) and typical promotional vehicle. It is entertaining enough in its way.

Casting Sessions

    Running for 4:24 with some VERY variable video quality (depending upon the source), this is of some interest though hardly riveting viewing.

How to Make the World's Greatest Sandwich

    Featuring celebrity chef Thomas Keller, this runs for 4:11 and made me very hungry. While the title might be open to debate, I was inspired enough by this to make one (with a few substitutes for hard-to-get ingredients) and it was, well, like totally.

DVD-ROM Screenplay

    While you will need a computer (and Adobe Acrobat software, included here) to look at this, it is well worth a look to see how much the film changed from initial shooting script to final product.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this DVD is essentially similar to the Region 4, except that it only has French subtitles and French rather than Spanish (curiously?) as the alternative language option to the English. There is no clear cut preference between versions - price and availability will most likely be key considerations.

Summary

    This is an excellent DVD. It presents an entertaining film backed with a quality selection of extras which are supported by a fine video transfer and acceptable (for the genre) sound. I can recommend a rental without hesitation and fans of the director should feel that a purchase is money well spent.

    The video transfer on this disc is good.

    The audio transfer is subtle, but effective enough for the film.

    The extras are interesting and add to the enjoyment and understanding of the film, and the process of making it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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