Worth A Look: 6.25%
Just Average: 25%
Pretty Crappy: 21.88%
3 reviews, 14 user ratings
|You Don't Mess with the Zohan
It’s hard to watch 'You Don’t Mess with the Zohan' without noticing the hummus that appears on screen almost as much as star-producer-writer Adam Sandler.When asked what to make of the chickpea and lemon juice dish, Sandler’s character blithely replies that it has a “consistency of diarrhea.” The film might be rated PG-13, but with this sort of verbal wit, it appears to be aimed at first-graders.
"But who says that you want to?"
While the movie is replete with humor derived from several different types of body functions, Sander also tries to poke fun at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and at xenophobia here in the States. These can be touchy subjects for comedy, but “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” demonstrates that delicate subjects can often lead to the biggest laughs.
Sadly, Sandler and his collaborators aren’t up to the challenge. The convoluted story begins with Sandler strolling down the beach and being greeted as if he were visiting royalty.
In a way, his character Zohan is. Zohan is an agent for the Mossad, but he’s not exactly secret. He’s become renowned for his ability to capture or kill terrorists with a minimum of collateral damage.
Just as viewers quickly get tired of the over-the-top gymnastics Zohan pulls off in his quest to stop terrorists, Zohan himself gets tired of the ceaseless war.
Every time that he captures his arch-rival The Phantom (John Turturro, a talented performer who has trouble passing for Palestinian), the Israeli government trades him for an Israeli prisoner.
Needless to say, it’s easy to see why Zohan would gladly trade the futility of his current profession for the pleasures of hairdressing.
Sandler and his co-writers Robert Smigel (the creator of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) and Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) started their script back in 2000 but in the years that have passed haven’t figured out how to juggle an earnest plea for tolerance with crotch kicks and urine jokes.
To show that Zohan is a fish-out-of-water after having fled to New York to restart his life, there’s a brief shot of him urinating in kitty litter along with a cat. The wit doesn’t get much more sophisticated than that.
It’s easy to expect more from Smigel and Apatow. Both have learned how to gross out viewers without insulting their intelligence. It’s an art that Sandler has yet to master.
When Zohan eventually gets a job at a Big Apple salon run by a supportive Palestinian woman (Emmanuelle Chriqui), he keeps her mostly post-menopausal clientele happy by meeting their carnal needs as well as bang trims.
Before you can wonder if the New York Department of Health is too permissive by allowing Zohan to lick his customers, it’s striking that the joke might have worked if director Dennis Dugan (who helmed such forgettable Sandler hits as “Happy Gilmore”) knew when to stop repeating a joke. Some of the gags might have worked if Dugan knew better than to repeat them to death.
It doesn’t take long to get bored watching every Israeli character in the film dip any conceivable item into hummus or for Sandler to constantly treat the audience to closeup shots of his khram.
The celebrity cameos—and there are a lot of them—aren’t all that funny and only seem to remind viewers that the filmmakers run around with a different crowd than the mere mortals watching the film.
Just because you’re famous, doesn’t mean you’re amusing. John McEnroe needs to stop making guest spots in these films.
In addition, it would be nice to see if Sandler regulars like Rob Schneider could locate some jobs outside the Happy Madison payroll.
It’s hard not to wonder if “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” might have worked in the more able hands of a filmmaker like Paul Thomas Anderson (the far superior Sandler vehicle “Punch Drunk Love” and “There Will Be Blood”).
Also, Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers have done a better job of poking fun at the conflict. It makes no sense to plunk down hard earned pay for this flop when “West Bank Story” and “Divine Intervention” are far more entertaining.It’s too bad that some folks think it’s funnier to watch Sandler catching a fish in his butt cheeks than to simply read the subtitles.
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originally posted: 06/06/08 01:03:14