Short version: There are a few laugh out loud moments, but you have to sit through a whole lot of stupid stuff to get to those few gems.
I apologize for the unsavory image to the left, but there’s a reason for it. You see you’re looking at the star of You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. No, not Adam Sandler – the star of Zohan is Adam Sandler’s crotch.
I have an axiom that has, with few exception, stood the test of time for me: If a book or movie is terrible in the first 10 minutes of reading or viewing, it’s pretty certain that the entire thing will be awful. Once again it has served me well.
In this case however, it didn’t take 10 minutes or even 5… I knew what I was in for literally in the first 5 seconds of the film, when after the studio logo the first frame of the film filled the screen with a close up of Adam Sandler’s groin area. From there, it zoomed out to show him frolicking on the beach and performing superhuman stunts, but his crotch was clearly the focus.
Of the entire movie.
Sandler plays Israeli counter-terrorism uber-dude “Zohan,” who is apparently blessed with near-superhuman (well, really, super-human) abilities and is a one-man army sent in to capture Palestinian terrorists. The thing is, he’s tired of all the hate and the fact that he captures really bad guys and they are given up in trade a couple of months later.
Secretly he pines to be a hair stylist and to move to America where he can work for the famous Paul Mitchell (for the guys, he’s a super famous hair stylist dude). When he tells his parents, it doesn’t go well and the first of many non-politically-correct jokes are launched when the call him “fagola” which, having grown up in New Jersey, I know is an ethnic term for homosexual.
He manages to make it to the States, goes under a false name and attempts to break into the hair stylist biz. Things don’t go well since he has no experience, just a passion for the work, and he’s basing his technique on a book of hairstyles from the 1980s. The scenes where he attempts to find a job are actually among the funniest in the movie, including one where he doesn’t quite know what to make of dreadlocks. Also the scene where he does a Vulcan nerve pinch on a small boy in a barber’s chair is a bit different from the trailer and quite funny.
From there he finally gets his foot in the door of a salon run by a gorgeous Palestinian woman played by Emmanuelle Chriqui. It takes her a while to let him actually cut anyone’s hair, but as seen in the trailer he has, to put it mildly, a rather unique approach. The initial scenes here where he seduces much older women are also pretty funny.
Eventually a Palestinian cab driver (Rob Scheider in very “tan” make-up) recognizes Zohan and that makes his life a bit complicated.
Now there ARE some funny bits scattered here and there, but I swear to you, never have a seen so many “dick jokes” in one movie. Throughout the first half of the film the audience actually laughed quite a bit (much more than I did) but getting towards the end even they quieted down as the repetitiveness of the gags got old. There are only so many times that a close up of a distortedly large crotch is funny. Like maybe, once. You really do have to sit through a lot of stupid stuff to get to the few decent laughs, and even those are short lived.
And some of the stuff in the movie just seemed way out of left field and made no sense even within the movie itself. There’s scene early on where Zohan is at the beach with a geeky friend and about 3 super hot babes – they’re all wearing bathing suits, but he’s naked. And barbecuing. Why is he naked? Who knows. And yeah, sure – I’ll have some of what they’re having.
There are other moments like this like where he’s demonstrating his prowess at pushups, and eventually starts doing them with no hands. Huh? Ok, he’s crazy fast and super-agile, but does he have the power of levitation as well?
We also get the whole “why can’t we all just get along” thing, which you see coming a mile away, and seems pretty ridiculous considering the animosity between the two countries. I found this even more surprising in view of the fact that I learned the other day that Sandler is one of the few Conservatives in Hollywood.
Judd Apatow, who is pretty much a golden boy in Hollywood these days when it comes to comedies, is listed as a writer on this. Yikes. I hope his upcoming druggie comedy Pineapple Express is much better than this thing.
And finally, how the hell did this movie get a PG-13 rating? Has the MPAA finally gotten tired of all the bad press on how they allow violence to slip through but no sex, that they’re caving? This movie is crass and obvious, and I’m flabbergasted it didn’t get an R. I suppose multiple shots of a guy’s bare butt and that of an overweight, older woman’s (look away!) are ok, but I’ll bet a bare skin shot of Chriqui’s would have launched this into R territory. (Of course the one bare backside a guy wouldn’t mind seeing is the only one that isn’t shown.) The entire movie’s humor is based on the guys genitals and what he does with them.
Anyway, even if you’re fan of crass comedy, I don’t think this one will carry you all the way through. If you think this sort of thing is just stupid, stay away. And for God’s sake, don’t bring the kids!