You Don't Mess With The Zohan

Adam Sandler's worst film to date -- and, yes, that includes LITTLE NICKY -- runs on the assumption that it helps to laugh at everything, even something as tragic as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps so. But you first have give the people something to laugh at. A funny movie, say. Zohan (Sandler) is a shaggy, disco-loving special agent for the...read more

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Adam Sandler's worst film to date -- and, yes, that includes LITTLE NICKY -- runs on the assumption that it helps to laugh at everything, even something as tragic as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps so. But you first have give the people something to laugh at. A funny movie, say.

Zohan (Sandler) is a shaggy, disco-loving special agent for the Israeli military with unstoppable fighting skills and a secret dream. Though he can single-handedly take out a nest of Arab terrorists, Zohan yearns to move to New York City and helping people to become "silky smooth" by working as a hairdresser at the renowned Paul Mitchell salon. Tired of the Arab-Israeli violence that's torn his country apart, Zohan escapes by faking his own death during a furious face-off against his nemesis, the dreaded Arab terrorist known as the Phantom (John Turturro), and stows away in the cargo hold of jet bound for the Big Apple. There, under the nom de coiffeur "Scrappy Coco," he arrives at Paul Mitchell's hair emporium, only to be immediately laughed off the premises. The only beauty parlor who will hire an inexperienced former commando is Rafaela's, which is owned and operated by a beautiful Palestinian Dalia (Entourage's Emmanuelle Chriqui). Her shop and other Arab storefronts sit directly across the street from a string of Israeli-owned business -- like a cut-rate, bait-and-switch electronics store that's actually named "Going Out of Business" -- and Zohan learns that the old tensions have followed him to America. But here Arabs and Israelis have a mutual enemy in Walbridge (famed ring announcer Michael Buffer), a Trump-like developer who wants to put them all out of business and build an indoor mall and rollercoaster. Zohan, who becomes a hit with Dalia's older female clientele -- mostly because he follows up each erotic wash, cut, and blow dry with a bang in the supply room -- soon has trouble of his own: He's recognized by Samir (Rob Schneider, following up his racist Japanese caricature in I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK & LARRY with something that might actually be worse), a Palestinian immigrant cab driver who's hated the Zohan since he stole Samir's beloved goat years ago, and now wants his revenge.

ZOOLANDER and the AUSTIN POWERS films are essentially one-joke comedies, but the basic joke is funny. Within the first minute -- even before Sandler catches a fish in his ass crack – it's clear that ZOHAN's only joke isn't. Nor is what the film purports to be about: Like director Dennis Dugin's I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK & LARRY, the film attempts a bold, topical satire only to deliver a clumsy, cringe-inducing equivalent of a group-hug that trivializes its serious subject. The stereotypes are broad, unoriginal and offensive, and the only possible defense available of the script -- cowritten by Sandler, long-time SNL writer Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow – is that it makes fun of everyone: They certainly take a swipe at gays with a gratuitous scene in which George Takai and Bruce Vilanch smack their lips over a prone Dave Matthews. But at a time when the images of Arab-Americans are already largely negative, do we really need more violently temperamental, bomb throwing men in turbans and beards? The only glimmer of truly biting wit in the entire film is also a moment of deep cynicism. When an Israeli storeowner tries to convince his Arab neighbor that his people are also hated, he reveals the real reason why: "Because people think we're you." Sad if true, and nothing to laugh at.

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  • Released: 2008
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Adam Sandler's worst film to date -- and, yes, that includes LITTLE NICKY -- runs on the assumption that it helps to laugh at everything, even something as tragic as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps so. But you first have give the people something… (more)

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