Movie Review for You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)

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Review #648 of 365
Movie Review of You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008) [PG-13] 113 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $10.25
Where Viewed: AMC Theatres Orchard 12, Westminster, CO
When Seen: 6 June 2008
Time: 12:01 am
DVD Release Date: 7 October 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: There is nothing to see after the credits.
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry)
Written by: Adam Sandler (Eight Crazy Nights) • Robert Smigel ("Saturday Night Live") • Judd Apatow (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Adam Sandler (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) • John Turturro (Transformers) • Emmanuelle Chriqui ("Entourage") • Nick Swardson (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) • Lainie Kazan (Bratz: The Movie) • Ido Mosseri (Offside) • Rob Schneider (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) • Dave Matthews (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) • Michael Buffer (Rocky Balboa) • Charlotte Rae ("The Facts of Life") • Sayed Badreya (Iron Man) • Daoud Heidami (debut) • Kevin Nealon ("Weeds")

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Click to see photos from the Premiere of You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Click to read the spoiler points for You Don't Mess with the Zohan
While clearly still being impacted by shades of the 'SNL Cast Curse', Adam Sandler's You Don't Mess with the Zohan (a needlessly verbose title) falls into the "other" in the "every other film is good" category--meaning this one is good while last summer's Chuck and Larry was not. Unfortunately, what will be referred to here simply as Zohan--for a savings in the economy of verbiage and not to be confused by the savvy reader as the main character's name--possesses a lingering, semi-bad-taste-in-your-mouth quality (do I smell the hand of Judd Apatow) reducing it to a "funny, but could have been so much better" position on the W.I.P. Scale.

Translation: Zohan was ok...once you shelve any political correctness principles you might employ and accept that, while the film simultaneously skewers and espouses gross caricaturizations and stereotyping of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, it also seeks to find common ground and illustrate harmonious, successfully peaceful co-habitation in a "gleaming city of hope and peace" known the world over as New York.

The story, as the too long, too revealing trailer reveals, presents the unfulfilled life of Moussad Super Agent, Zohan (Adam Sandler), whose physical and personal modesty are only occasionally upstaged in life by his incredible head of hair and super bushy beard perhaps revealing the prowess of his other 'follically' unimpaired body regions which make for one of the many annoyingly repetitive running gags not the least of which is his and his father's penchant for using hummus as everything from a coffee flavoring to toothpaste. Zohan, after learning that his arch enemy, The Phantom (played by a "couldn't have been more miscast if they had cast Mel Gibson" John Turturro), has been released from Israeli prison in exchange for two barely significant Israeli counter-terrorists and a "spy to be named later", bashfully informs his parents he plans to leave the army and go to America to become a hair stylist. This doesn't go over well as they, proving that, in these writer's eyes at least, the "all hair stylists are gay" stereotype is true the world over, tease him about his sexual orientation. So, he's left with no choice but to fake his death in a 'final' showdown with the Phantom who emerges a 'false' hero for his people and an iconic celebrity owner of a chain of Middle Eastern fast food restaurants on the heels of Zohan's demise. Now free of his familial and national obligations, he travels to his dreamy America. He arrives bright-eyed and unjaded only to find his possession of an outdated Paul Mitchell styling book and a heart of gold will not only not get him a walk-on position with Paul Mitchell but won't get him any job anywhere. That is until a Palestinian immigrant electronic store owner / admirer recognizes him and offers to help ultimately landing him at the Palestinian immigrant-owned hair salon across the street.

Adam Sandler is spot on perfect in the role delivering his best comedic performance in 10 films.
Here he becomes an overnight sensation for his haircuts and "bonus customer relations" reeling in word-of-mouth customers from all over the five-Burroughs region much to the delight of store owner, Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Supported on the side by a stereotypical NYC Jewish family headed by mom and son team, Gail (Lainie Kazan) and Michael (Nick Swardson), he works his way into the heads and hearts of everyone he meets until his idyllic new live is ruined. A Palestinian immigrant cab driver and previous Zohan victim, Salim (Rob Schneider) recognizes him and sets about a plan to catch him and reign in on a little of The Phantom's undeserved fame and fortune. Fortunately for Zohan, his ineptitude is so vast, such as mistaking Neosporin® for liquid nitroglycerine when crafting an incendiary device to subdue and capture The Zohan, as to be mind boggling. This plot line compounded by one in which Mr. Walbridge (excellently cast Michael Buffer) exemplifies all corporate greed in America as small, Mom and Pop enterprises are wiped out of existence on a daily basis by powerful conglomerates spreading their cancerous mega-scale stores and roller coaster-topped shopping malls across the nation. To achieve his evil aims, in this case, Mr. Walbridge employs henchmen and stooges to beat down the owners of shops in Dalia's block where his mall is scheduled to be erected. When Mafia-style shakedowns and slum lord rent increases don't work, a plan is hatched to pit the Israeli and Palestinian shop owners against each other bringing the baggage they left behind in the Middle East to the surface by simulating hate crimes.

Logically, one can conclude that it's going to be Zohan to the rescue at some point (not until we've seen 25 more nasty uses for hummus). The how, where, what, and when are left up to the spoiler to be revealed.

Depending on your threshold for Adam Sandler comedies (now 'enhanced' as briefly noted above by the 'it' comedy dude Judd Apatow with co-writing credits with Mr. Sandler and "SNL" vet Robert Smigel), your tolerance for stereotyped-based humor, and your patience level that, at some point in time, you'll see a silver lining in any proverbial gray cloud, you may or may not enjoy this occasionally raucous comedy. Minus the hummus, several wide angle and close up shots of either the real naked backside of Adam Sandler or that of a stunt double (thankfully we are spared equally in-your-face frontal shots though not ample, vividly detailed verbal descriptions), and the one Zohan limo-driving-induced Technicolor® yawn by cameo enduring Henry "still can't shed The Fonze" Winkler scene, the film's 'gross out factor' would fall into the 'very tame' region of the Apatow or Sandler spectra.

…a comedic but uneven film that will push everyone's buttons not always the right way.
The film utilizes vastly more and welcome physical comedy than recent Adam Sandler films (though, again way too much pelvic thrusting and gyration and licking of strange body parts often covered in either hummus or shampoo). Adam Sandler is spot on perfect in the role delivering his best comedic performance in 10 films. He proves himself imminently capable of layering the former super spy character with many human dimensions from sensitivity to vulnerability. The character if not the film is a winner. With the slight exception of Emmanuelle Chriqui, the rest of the cast play virtually stock, stereotypical characters under the watchful eye of director Dennis Dugan who never lets them catch a breath in a scene with Sandler. The story ends very well, though the path to conclusion let alone climax nearly, literally and figuratively, circumnavigates the globe trying to find its inner voice and eventual message. The result represents a comedic but uneven film that will push everyone's buttons not always the right way.

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Cast Members
Adam SandlerJohn TurturroEmmanuelle Chriqui
Nick SwardsonLainie KazanIdo Mosseri
Rob SchneiderDave MatthewsMichael Buffer
Charlotte RaeDaoud Heidami
Dennis Dugan
Adam SandlerRobert SmigelJudd Apatow

Review-lite You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008) [max of 150 words]
Adam Sandler's Happy Madison productions provides its annual vehicle for Sandler and Co. antics on film. Directed by Sandler favorite Dennis Dugan and featuring favorites Nick Swardson and Rob Schnieder (both of whom seem to get mercy roles in all Sandler films) this story follows the life of a former Moussad agent as he drops out of his old life to become a hair dresser in NYC. This journey of self-discovery has been down a dozen times in funnier ways notably Eddie Murphy's classic Coming to America, but if you can get past all of the politically incorrect stereotypical humor to the core of the film it has both some hilarious moments and some decent performances from Sandler and leading lady Emmanuelle Chriqui who plays Sandler's love interest. The story ends very well, though the path to conclusion let alone climax nearly, literally and figuratively, circumnavigates the globe trying to find its inner voice and eventual message. The result represents a comedic but uneven film that will push everyone's buttons not always the right way.

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1 comment:

patrick said...

Adam Sandler is classic, though he tends to do his best work when he stays casual, not trying too hard to be funny or deep, etc.