Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movie Review:You Don't Mess With the Zohan

Adam Sandler is not known for doing particularly serious work. In fact, the more serious he tries to be, the more critics seem to lam bast him. Nevertheless, he has found his niche. He typically plays immature, directionless losers with good hearts that some event stimulate to change their life for the better. They are generally a bit...well...stupid, but fun nevertheless. They typically provide a decent number of laughs even when you see the jokes coming.

From time to time he steps out a bit and tries something new. I now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) made a more or less serious statement about how gay marriage is perceived and how gays are treated in firefighting. Click (2006) dealt with life, death, and dealing with your spouse. Spanglish (2004) was far and away his most serious, well-rounded role. Gone were the over the top zaniness, the clueless, hapless loser, and in their place were a serious attempt to look at a marriage in trouble and a cultural divide between immigrants. These roles have been atypical.

In You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008) he returns to the Waterboy (1998)/Anger Management (2003) /Wedding Singer (1998) type of zaniness. As Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) he is an Israeli counter-terrorist. He is very good at whatever he does....including catching stuff in his butt-crack and flipping it wherever he wants it to go.

His primary enemy is the Phantom (John Turturro), a Palestinian bombing expert. When the Phantom is traded in a prisoner exchange, Zohan tires of it. He decides the never-ending war is pointless and wants to cut hair instead. So when he is sent after Phantom once more he fakes his death and moves to New York.

There he befriends Oori (Ido Mosseri), a Jewish electronic salesman. I point out he is Jewish because the movie pointedly does, and that points to one of the themes of this movie. There is a very prominent theme to the movie; the ongoing war between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel and Palestine should be resolved and ended in peace. Unfortunately it never makes any attempt to explain how this can be accomplished or any real-world solutions.

Eventually Oori helps Zohan get a job in a Palestinian hair salon working for Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Slowly he works his way up from floor-cleaner to hair cutter. One of the running jokes has to do with his enormous ah, talent with the ladies. After he cuts each elderly woman's hair he takes them in the back room and nails them. Finally, this brings him to the attention of erstwhile cab-driver Salim (Rob Schneider). Meanwhile, Dalia rejects him because he is Israeli and she is Palestinian even though she has previously stated she likes New York because it doesn't matter if they are Palestinian or Israeli, they are just trying to pay the rent.

This introduces another subplot. Walbridge (Michael Buffer) wants to tear down the "community" of shops and build a mall. To accomplish this he has been raising the rent on the shops to ridiculous levels. Dalia is able to keep paying the rent because of Zohan's success which is threatened by his discovery.

Salim notifies Phantom that Zohan was not dead but was posing as a hair cutter. In the climactic battle it is revealed Phantom is Dalia's brother, Phantom and Zohan put aside their differences to battle the rednecks Walbridge sent to firebomb the shops. Peace is achieved between the Palestinians and Israelites, Zohan and the Phantom...and Salim....all become friends and Dalia and Zohan hook up.

There are a lot of laughs in the movie. The action sequences are deliberately over the top and ridiculous but they are not the point of the movie. It is not meant to be a brilliant movie, just a bunch of fun with some vague sense of social awareness and it delivers on that promise.

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