Entries Comments

Zohan Your Typical Sandler Take-It-Or-Leave-It Vehicle

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Written by Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel, and Judd Apatow
Sony, 2008

This is the fourth Dugan collaboration with Adam Sandler, a partnership that began way back when Sandler comedies were smaller and funnier, with Happy Gilmore. For the first time, he teams with Judd Apatow, who is part of nearly every comedy it seems this year (Drillbit Taylor and Forgetting Sarah Marshall already, with Step Brothers and Pineapple Express to come). However, it should be noted that almost any Happy Madison production is ultimately Sandler, and even a guy like Apatow is just a hired pro at this point. I’m sure I’d get the “no that’s not true” from everyone involved, but when you watch a Sandler comedy, it’s hard to see anyone else’s fingerprints in the movie.

I’ve had a decent time with Sandler comedies in the past, probably more than most critics, because I have a taste for the absurd, and back in the day his whipping-boy pictures Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore were chock full of it (I could be wrong, but I think these are considered classics now). As he got bigger and pictures got bigger, the absurd started to take a back seat to more traditional comedy and sentimentality, and strangely, some ponderous outlooks on being a better human being. I think he reached his ultimate balance with The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, the only movies in the Sandler canon that most people like.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is highly absurd, probably more than any Sandler comedy since Gilmore. At this point in the game, you know exactly whether you’re going to like this or not, because all Sandler movies are the same as to their high and low points. I’ve been mixed about his comedies for awhile, enjoying many bits and then watching other bits just die. In this, he’s Zohan, an Israeli counter-terrorist fighting the good fight against Palestine, and his number one enemy is The Phantom (John Turturro). Zohan is practically a superhero with actual powers and everything, but he’s tired of the fighting. And what he really wants to do is cut and style hair. So he fakes his own death in a climactic battle with The Phantom and escapes to New York City.

With an eighties Paul Mitchell catalog in tow, and a new name (Scrappy Coco), he looks to find a job. He finds the going tough, but at least he finds a place to live after defending a guy named Michael (Nick Swardson) from a beating. Michael lives with his mother Gail (Lainie Kazan), and it’s not long before Zohan is banging her silly. Eventually, Zohan finds a place to work, led by the skeptical Dalia (Entourage’s Emmanuelle Chriqui). It just happens to be in a neighborhood where Jews are on one side and Palestinians are on the other, but it’s America and they don’t care about the fighting overseas.

At first, he’s not allowed to cut the hair and he only sweeps. But finally, given the chance, he takes on these old ladies, giving them great styles and then…yeah, screwing them afterwards. He becomes a sensation, and thus is spotted by someone from the homeland: Salim (Rob Schneider), who is upset that Zohan took his goat many years ago. Salim tries to round up some people to kill Zohan, but it’s tough because the Hezbollah Hotline isn’t selling weapons due to current negotiations.

Ultimately, though, if you’ve seen any movie, you know the real enemy is the rich white guy trying to hike rents unfairly in the Jewish-Palestinian neighborhood so that he can build a mall. That guy is played by Michael Buffer. And if you think that’s weird, you’ll definitely find the hiring of a villain played by Dave Matthews (who is very funny) highly cuckoo.

And so, here’s the not-so-surprising revelation: this movie is not very good, but it has some good laughs here and there. So you’ll be sitting watching this movie with your head resting on your fist because it sucks, and then something really funny will happen. It also has a pretty balanced outlook on the whole Israel-Palestine relationship, in usual simple Sandler terms (Both sides are wrong!). It ends up being a matter of tolerance: can you stomach bad stuff to get to funny stuff, and then…well, you might not even find funny what I find funny.

So there you have it…I both hated and liked this movie. It’s par for the course.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.