Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames L. Brooks
Written byJames L. Brooks
Produced by
Narrated byAimee Garcia
CinematographyJohn Seale
Edited byRichard Marks
Music byHans Zimmer
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 17, 2004 (2004-12-17)
Running time
131 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[2]
Box office$55 million[2]

Spanglish is a 2004 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by James L. Brooks and starring Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega, and Cloris Leachman.

The film was released in the United States on December 17, 2004, by Columbia Pictures. It was a box office bomb, grossing $55 million worldwide on an $80 million production budget.[2] The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the performances of Sandler and Vega, but criticism for the plot.


For Cristina Moreno's Princeton University application essay, she tells the story of a year from her childhood, and how it shaped the person she is today.

In 1992, Flor Moreno, a poor Mexican single mother moved to the U.S. ("economy class", according to Cristina’s letter) seeking a better life for her and her daughter, Cristina. They settle in a Latino community in Los Angeles, Flor works two jobs to support her and her daughter, while never needing to learn English. Flor soon realizes she needs to spend more time with her daughter, so her cousin helps her get work as a housekeeper for the Claskys: John and Deborah, their children Bernice and Georgie, and Deborah's mother Evelyn Wright.

John is a chef and an easygoing family man. Deborah was a businesswoman who lost her job due to downsizing and is now a stay-at-home mother, and Evelyn is an alcoholic retired singer. Uptight and neurotic, Deborah upsets everyone, psychologically abuses and body-shames Bernice, and bullies John, demanding he always back her up. John is torn between defending his kids' mental well-being, and his domineering wife.

Flor gets on well with the Claskys, despite the language barrier. When Deborah rents a house for the summer, she tells Flor she expects her to live in while they're there, since Flor travels by bus and commuting from Los Angeles to Malibu isn't feasible. Faced with losing her job, Flor agrees to bring Cristina and live with the Claskys for the summer.

Deborah quickly becomes attached to the beautiful and personable Cristina, ignoring Bernice; Flor does not approve of the attention. John unwittingly angers Flor when he offers to pay the children a set amount for each bit of sea glass they find on the beach. Cristina earnestly searches for hours, earning $650 for her efforts. Flor and John argue, with Cristina as interpreter; Flor wants to leave because of the awkward family dynamic. He convinces her to stay, to Cristina's delight, and Flor starts an English course to better communicate with the Claskys.

When John's restaurant receives an amazing review, John begins worrying about the added pressure, while Deborah begins an affair. Deborah also secures Cristina a scholarship to Bernice's private school, upsetting Flor, who wants Cristina to maintain her Mexican roots and working-class values. Since Cristina passionately wants to attend the school, Flor agrees. Flor feels Deborah is overstepping her bounds and voices her concerns to John, who tells her he empathizes as Bernice has no support from her own mother. Flor tries to build Bernice's self-confidence with small acts of kindness, especially when Deborah is harsh.

Deborah allows Cristina to bring her friends from the private school over for a sleepover, telling Flor it is a study session, even though Cristina is expected home for a family event. The now-sober Evelyn, knowing about her daughter's affair, warns Deborah that her marriage is in trouble. She pleads with Deborah to end the affair, telling her she will never get another man as good as John.

Deborah tells John about the affair, begging him to talk it out. However, a dejected John walks out, encountering Flor, who has finally had enough of Deborah and wants to quit and retrieve her daughter. Since Cristina is asleep with her friends, John takes Flor to his restaurant, where he cooks for her and they admit their feelings for each other. They acknowledge that they cannot have a relationship. A desperate Deborah continuously tries to contact John and blames Evelyn's failings as a parent for the way she is. They have a frank conversation during which they admit their faults and become closer.

The next day, Flor comes to take Cristina home and informs her that she has quit her job, upsetting Cristina. As they are leaving, John tells Flor he will envy whoever ends up with her. On the way home, Flor further upsets Cristina after telling her she cannot attend private school anymore, leading her to have a public meltdown while accusing Flor of ruining her life.

After she asks her mother for "space", Flor, having lost patience, tells Cristina she needs to answer an important question at such a young age: "Is what you want for yourself to become someone very different than me?" Cristina considers this on their bus ride home before they make up and embrace. The voiceover from Cristina tells the Princeton committee that while she would be thrilled by their acceptance, she would not let it define her, as she is already her mother's daughter.



Brooks cast Sandler after seeing his more dramatic performance in Punch-Drunk Love.[3]

Vega could not speak English when filming began and a interpreter was on set during filming so that she could communicate with the director.[3]

Leachman replaced Anne Bancroft, who dropped out of the part after four weeks of shooting because of illness.[3]

According to cinematographer John Seale, over two million feet of film was shot; Kodak sent him two bottles of champagne out of appreciation. This was the most footage Seale ever shot on a film, and it wasn't surpassed until Mad Max: Fury Road.[4]


Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 54% based on reviews from 168 of critics, with an average rating of 6/10. The critical consensus reads, "Paz Vega shines, and Adam Sandler gives a performance of thoughtfulness and depth, but Spanglish is ultimately undermined by sitcommy plotting and unearned uplift."[5] On Metacritic it has a score of 48% based on reviews from 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.[7]

Its proponents claim it is a moving portrayal of the difficulty of family problems and self-identity (and perhaps to a lesser extent the difficulties and rewards of cross-cultural communication). Some critics described the film as "uneven",[8] "awkward," for example, when "John and Flor attempt to bare their souls to one another ... [with] lots of words coming out of their mouths, but there doesn't seem to be a context",[9] and "The supporting performers deserve better, especially ... Cloris Leachman, who's consigned to a demeaning role...[and] the butt of rather mean-spirited jokes."[10]


Award Category Recipients Result Ref.
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best Intergenerational Film Spanglish Nominated [11]
Best Screenwriter James L. Brooks Nominated
Best Actress Cloris Leachman Nominated
California on Location Awards Assistant Location Manager of the Year – Feature Films Kei Rowan-Young Won [12]
German Dubbing Awards Outstanding Newcomer Performance Patricia Jahn Won
62nd Golden Globes Awards Best Original Score Hans Zimmer Nominated [13]
Imagen Foundation Awards Best Picture Spanglish Nominated [14]
Best Director – Film James L. Brooks Nominated
Best Actress – Film Paz Vega Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Film Shelbie Bruce Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Breakout of the Year – On Screen Paz Vega Won [15]
Best Performance by Youth in a Leading or Supporting Role – Female Sarah Steele Won
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Comedy or Musical Cloris Leachman Nominated [16]
11th Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Cloris Leachman Nominated [17]
The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Actress Tea Leoni Nominated [18]
Worst On-Screen Couple Adam Sandler
Tea Leoni
Young Artist Awards Best Family Film – Comedy or Musical Spanglish Nominated [19]
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Young Actor Age Ten or Younger Ian Donovan Hyland Nominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress Shelbie Bruce Nominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress Sarah Steele Nominated

See also


  1. ^ "SPANGLISH (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. January 6, 2005. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Spanglish (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Daly, Steve (November 12, 2004). "What, Him Worry?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
  4. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (2022). "Chapter 27: If You Can't Fix What's Broken". Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road (first ed.). New York City: HarperCollins. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-06-308434-6.
  5. ^ "Spanglish (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  6. ^ "Spanglish". Metacritic. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  7. ^ "SPANGLISH (2004) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  8. ^ Meyer, Carla (December 17, 2004). "Uneven 'Spanglish' has good moments". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  9. ^ "Spanglish". Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Vice, Jeff (December 7, 2004). "Film review: Spanglish". Deseret News. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  11. ^ "AARP Movies for Grownups Awards (2005)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  12. ^ "California on Location Awards (2004)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  13. ^ "Spanglish". Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  14. ^ "Imagen Foundation Awards (2005)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  15. ^ "Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards (2004-2)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  16. ^ "Satellite Awards (2005)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  17. ^ "The 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  18. ^ "The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards (2004)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  19. ^ "Young Artist Awards (2005)". IMDb. Retrieved February 9, 2022.