Dir: Dennis Dugan. US. 2008. 113 mins.
A comedy built around the belief that people speaking in foreign accents is endlessly funny, You Don't Mess With The Zohan is - how you say' - not good. Aiming for an irreverent politically-incorrect tone with its story of an Israeli commando who leaves Middle Eastern tensions behind for a life as an American hairdresser, the latest Adam Sandler summer offering is too scattershot in its humour to work either as edgy satire or broad tomfoolery.
You Don't Mess With The Zohan is aiming at a wider audience than its opening weekend rival, the animated Kung Fu Panda, and Adam Sandler is indeed as close to a sure thing as Hollywood has in terms of blockbuster comedians. In the last 10 years, Sandler has seen eight films tally more than $100m domestically and Zohan has two-week clear run at its audience before Mike Myers premieres The Love Guru, which has to bode well.
Internationally, Zohan will start a slow release at the end of June: here, Sandler has a tougher time. Only his 2006 summer hit Click has managed to top $100m internationally - and only just. With Sandler playing an Israeli counterterrorist for laughs, there may be accusations of insensitivity: whatever the case, Zohan should still prove itself as yet another Adam Sandler comedy with a long ancillary life.
Zohan (Sandler) is Israel 's most renowned soldier, but he is tired of endlessly battling the Palestinians and his arch nemesis the Phantom (Turturro). Faking his death, Zohan sneaks into New York City to pursue his true love: cutting and styling hair. Going under an assumed name and claiming to be Australian, he finagles a job at a rundown salon, falling in love with the shop's Palestinian owner Dalia (Chriqui) in the process. But Zohan's hope for a new life is soon threatened by the Phantom's arrival in the United States.
Directed by Sandler regular Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry and Big Daddy), You Don't Mess With The Zohan fails because it can't decide if it wants to be a shocking comedy that gets its laughs from politically sensitive current events or just a silly bauble replete with jokes about Zohan's insatiable sexual appetite and his fish-out-of-water adjustments to American culture. But the satire of Middle Eastern relations is shallow and obvious - a running gag of the many uses Zohan has for hummus goes nowhere - while the more bawdy humour doesn't feel particularly fresh.
As a comedic presence, Sandler has always projected a warmth that pokes through even his most outlandish characters. Though his Zohan creation is actually less of a caricature than The Waterboy's simpleton football hero or Billy Madison's man-child, Sandler and his co-writers Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow never quite get an angle on this superhero-turned-hairdresser.
As the movie nears its conclusion, Zohan takes a feel-good turn, arguing that killing is wrong and that feuding nations need to live together in peace. It's a nice sentiment for a film that takes many lazy jabs at Middle Eastern stereotypes - they all drive cabs or operate shady electronics stores - but assumedly heartfelt, nonetheless.
Director of photography
Perry Andelin Blake