You Don't Mess With the Zohan - Review

Created on 25/8/2008

SYNOPSIS
In "You Don't Mess With the Zohan", a comedy from screenwriters Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel ("Triumph the Insult Comic Dog"), and Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up"), Sandler stars as Zohan, an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. One day he simply cuts his ties with Israel and smuggles himself into the United States in a crate carrying two dogs whose hair he does en route. In America, he poses as an Australian with a very peculiar accent, and when asked for his name, combines the names of his airborne flight buddies: Scrappy Coco. He has a series of unsuccessful salon auditions before meeting someone who understands his unique vision. His archenemy, the Palestinian agent known as the Phantom (John Turturro), is also in New York, and they make war. The Phantom's training regime is severe. He punches not only sides of beef but a living cow. Like the Zohan, he is filled with confidence in his own abilities, and with reason (he can cling to ceilings). Their confrontation will be a battle of the Middle-Eastern superheroes.

Suffering from severe Olympic withdrawal symptoms I had to do something urgent to take my mind away from the missing synchronized swimming, the Greco-Roman wrestling and the intense water polo matches.

Selecting my choice with careful precision I arrived at the inevitable conclusion that only one film could fill that gap, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan", a comedy from screenwriters Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel ("Triumph the Insult Comic Dog"), and Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up"). This is possibly the most politically incorrect movie of the year and I loved it for this and the fact that it made me laugh from beginning to end.

I have to admit to a special interest, as one of my sons in law is an Israeli. Although he is not a hairdresser nor was he ever, to my knowledge, a top anti terrorist commando, there are personality traits I recognize in the character of Zohan. Like all good comedy characters Zohan is built from a foundation of good observation writ super large.

Sandler stars as Zohan, an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. One day he simply cuts his ties with Israel and smuggles himself into the United States in a crate carrying two dogs whose hair he does en route. In America, he poses as an Australian with a very peculiar accent, and when asked for his name, combines the names of his airborne flight buddies: Scrappy Coco.
Sandler’s character, Zohan, has a series of very funny unsuccessful salon auditions before meeting someone who understands his unique vision. His archenemy, the Palestinian agent known as the Phantom (John Turturro), is also in New York, and they make war. The Phantom's training regime is severe. He punches not only sides of beef but a living cow. Like the Zohan, he is filled with confidence in his own abilities, and with reason (he can cling to ceilings). Their confrontation will be a battle of the Middle-Eastern superheroes. The cinema I was in contained only a few people in the early morning screening, but those of us who were there were laughing from start to finish.

I’ve always enjoyed Sandler’s comedy style and this film is further evidence of his talent not losing its edge or currency. The film already has a box office gross exceeding $100 million in the US alone.

The director, Dennis Dugan, has done a more than competent job keeping the laughs rolling and action moving along. He also gets some smashing cameos from celebrities such as John McEnroe, Mariah Carey alongside the main cast more than ably led by Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Rob Schneider. I do have a minor reservation that the running time of 113 minutes is just a tiny bit overlong.

It’s interesting how Sandler has bought his Jewish comic sensibilities right to the centre of the American mainstream. In the States this has virtually no bearing on his success, whereas in the UK his ethnicity is probably a little too exotic to be understood or appreciated by the majority of our cinema going public. If you want an uncomplicated laugh make it your business to share the enjoyment of this earthy comedy, it’s well worth your time.