There’s a lot to dislike about You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. For one, Adam Sandler blatantly ripping off Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G and Borat characters as superhuman Mossad agent-turned-hairdresser Zohan, such that he even borrows the latter’s trademark “Is nice!” In addition, Rob Schneider hitting new lows as a wannabe Muslim terrorist. And also, half-hearted “let’s all get along” pap regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the film—Sandler’s second comedy-of-tolerance after I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry—doesn’t seem to really believe. Yet despite these and other big-time deficiencies, including a gratuitous runtime padded out with DOA cameos from Sandler pals and subplots that barely warrant being DVD supplements, Zohan is, against all odds, the star’s funniest effort in close to a decade. Not exactly a monumental feat given the junk he’s recently made a mint foisting on the American public, but still. In his latest (co-written by Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow), Sandler’s secret agent, an invincible soldier and ladies’ man who wears Mariah Carey T-shirts and ‘80s-era cut-off jean shorts, tires of dispatching Palestinian terrorists and, consequently, fakes his death and flees to New York to fulfill his Paul Mitchell styling dreams. There, he gets a job at a salon run by Palestinian beauty Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), where he becomes a sensation giving old ladies absurdly eroticized hair cuts that are followed by actual sex. Idiotic, yes, but surprisingly amusing, given Sandler’s all-out, gung-ho dedication to arbitrary, puerile ridiculousness, which similarly flourishes during early scenes featuring John Turturro’s cartoonish Palestinian villain the Phantom. Unappealing from an aesthetic point of view, dim-witted when it comes to politics (which are, in the final outcome, subtly pro-Israel), and scattershot in the humor department, Zohan is, as befitting a Dugan-helmed project, quite slapdash. All the same, it has the unruly dumb-silly energy that characterizes Sandler’s best material, from a recurring gag about Zohan’s love of hummus (he uses it to, among other things, brush his teeth and put out a fire) to the sight of the Israeli’s herculean skills at hacky-sacking a cat, to a supremely unnecessary, expertly moronic Rocky-ish training sequence featuring the Phantom cracking open eggs and gulping down live baby chicks.
- Columbia Pictures
- 112 min
- Dennis Dugan
- Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel, Judd Apatow
- Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, Lainie Kazan, Ido Mosseri, Rob Schneider, Dave Matthews, Michael Buffer
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