YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN
Mossad agent Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) fakes his death during a fight with his arch rival The Phantom (John Turturro) so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist. He romances his ageing lady clients by giving them "special services" in the back room. However, he is eventually recognized, and risks losing his newfound life and career, just as he finds his heart [and other body parts] responding to the salon owner, Palestinian beauty, Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui).
Review by Louise Keller:
It goes on too long, but I enjoyed much of the crazy, off-the-wall nature of this political satire and the Sandler-Apatow brand of humour. Pitting serious subjects like terrorism and Israeli/Palestine relations in a ridiculous context is therapeutic in part, and Sandler, with a swag of swagger as large as his oversized crotch, is in fine juvenile form as he sends a message spelling how we can all live with our neighbour. It may not have leave behind the imprint of teeth marks as did Mel Brooks' bite when he took a swipe at Hitler in The Producers, but there is some cutting stuff and plenty of risk amongst the slapstick, penis jokes and Middle Eastern politics.
Sandler plays Zohan, former super-Israeli commando turned stylist, who uses hummus for everything - from cleaning his teeth to extinguishing fires. Zohan the commando leaps off buildings in a single bound, does push ups without needing his arms, and can duck a bullet practically before it has been fired. But there must be more to life than saving the world; he now wants to make everything 'silky smooth' with scissors and a hair dryer. With coiffeur Paul Mitchell's out of date catalogue as his guide, Zohan (or Scrappy Coco as he now calls himself, after two dogs he encounters - don't ask!) quickly builds up a clientele of adoring older women who welcome his outrageous style as well as his extra-curricular services. Much of the humour relies on the easy laugh - the slapstick and the never-ending penis jokes, although there's an undercurrent of issues that are far more controversial, like the automated dial-in phone service that offers terrorist supplies on call.
There's a fleet of celebrities who make a fleeting appearance, like Mariah Carey (her high notes are reputedly like a missile soaring to its target), Chris Rock as a taxi driver and John McEnroe (who used to be bad but never a terrorist). There are also major talents like the wonderful John Turturro as Zohan's Palestinian big-headed counterpart The Phantom, Rob Schneider as the Middle Eastern New York taxi driver who is still agitating over the theft of his pet goat, and the ageless Lainie Kazan as the mother of Zohan's host who enjoys Scrappy Coco's services any which way. Emmanuelle Chriqui has the thankless task of playing Sandler's Palestinian love interest Dalia, but is quite lovely. This is low-brow humour with political bite and there's plenty of bad taste for the willing, while Sandler pushes the envelope some of the way as he offers laughs for the masses.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The central character in this movie is Adam Sandler's penis. We don't actually get to see it, but there is evidence of it in the bulky pouch that adorns his every trouser and in his . . . er . . . body language. And sometimes by overt suggestion, during its active moments. So if penis jokes aren't your bag, this movie is not for you. I don't mind penis jokes - if they're really funny, otherwise they are just limp attempts at bawdy, juvenile comedy.
The heavy handed humour of this slapstick farce is matched only by the heavy handed handling of the otherwise 'worthy' message that impales the audience with its blunt barbs about the conflicts in the Middle East. Let's stop all this hate . . . it's simplistic but it's earnest and it's certainly valid. Maybe it's simplistic enough to strike a chord with its target audience. But it's an odd combo, what with hairdressing jokes, randy old ladies in hair salons and a terrorists' call centre using the irritatingly anti-communication, customer-unfriendly voice menus of most companies today.
Adam Sandler, with his awful Jewish accent and awful wardrobe, creates a buffoon to whom the everyman can somehow relate, as the character who shuns his day job to try his hand at what he really wants to do ... in this case hairdressing. And he's not gay, as he keeps reassuring his parents and everyone else. The stereotyping thus squashed, nevertheless pops up beside him at the salon run by a Palestinian beauty (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who takes his fancy. I won't spoil the surprise of who she really is, but it goes to the heart of the film's co-existence message.
The entire cast - including cameos by some celebrities - is talented, respectable and genuine, being the silk purse to this sow's ear. But the film is too silly, too obvious and too out of reach for any of it to mean anything - not even entertainment. I was bored to tears, but many at the public preview laughed even as I squirmed and seemed to enjoy it.
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YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN (M)
CAST: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rob Schneider, Dave Matthews, Michael Buffer, Shelley Berman, Chris Rock, and Maria Carey, John McEnroe, George Takei, Bruce Vilanch as themselves
PRODUCER: Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler
DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan
SCRIPT: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel, Judd Apatow
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Barrett
EDITOR: Tom Costain
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Perry Andelin Blake
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 19, 2008