Review – You Don’t Mess With The Zohan

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan [2008]

Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, Lainie Kazan, Rob Schneider
Director: Dennis Dugan
Screenwriter: Robert Smigel, Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow

I am not a big fan of a lot of Adam Sandler’s movies. I enjoy them from time to time, but I find most of his stuff to be pretty much the same. I am also not a Rob Schneider fan, and have found myself almost disliking movies I would have otherwise enjoyed simply by his presence. So it was to my great surprise that I found You Don’t Mess With The Zohan to be quite funny, and overall a pleasant and enjoyable watch. Adam Sandler is consistently funny, winning back much of the charm he has lost over the years, and Rob Schneider not only doesn’t ruin the film, but is himself funny from time to time as well.

Sandler plays a (quite superhuman) Israeli Counter Terrorist Operative named Zohan, who loves hummus so much he brushes his teeth with it, and dances to bad disco music. But though he is the hero of the land, he’s tired of the constant fighting and war between Israel and Palestine, and desires to go to the United States in order to… become a hair stylist. In a special mission to take down known terrorist, The Phantom (John Turturro), he fakes his own death and smuggles himself to the United States, where he seeks to become a professional hair stylist, and the best in the world. He eventually lands a job cleaning up the hair at a salon owned by a Palestinian girl named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), on the Palestinian side of the block (the block is divided up, one side Palestinian, one side Israeli… how original). Through persistence, Zohan finally ends up getting to style hair. And he’s a hit. Why? Not necessarily because he’s a master with scissors and at styling hair, but really with the fact that he’s blatantly and overtly sexual with all the customers, most of whom are middle-aged or elderly women.

He caresses then, sticks his manhood in their faces, and after every style, promptly takes them into the back room and bangs them. You would think such a premise would be downright stupid, but (and for the life of me I can’t understand why), I found myself laughing consistently at the joke. The way that Sandler plays it, while not extremely apt, just goes so far. The way he walks, talks, interacts with people, it’s all just ridiculous. He does anything and everything to get a laugh out of the audience, and unlike so many other times, I found myself giving in to it and going along. The sexual humor is not very smartly expressed, like in films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The 40 Year Old Virgin, but the unabashed quality that Sandler plays the material makes it so hard to resist.

It’s a typical comedy/romantic comedy when it comes to the arc of the story. It’s not a special movie by any means. But it’s entertaining. And for a film like this, that’s what we pay for, and when we get it, it’s satisfying, even if nothing new is really brought to the table.

The film brazenly deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it doesn’t condescend and it doesn’t do it offensively. Of course the message is, “why can’t we all get along?” but I have to give the filmmakers credit for being able to deal with such a touchy subject that doesn’t make the audience cringe and shake their heads at the jokes. Sandler is a Jew, and quite open about his faith and heritage, and he’s always had a skill at expressing such in a lighthearted and enjoyable way. Zohan is no different.

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