Review: You Don't Mess With The Zohan
Plot: Top Israeli counter- terrorist, Zohan (Adam Sandler) is sick of the never-ending war between his country and Palestine. In order to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a hair stylist, he fakes his death, and re-emerges in New York City.
Review: YOU DONíT MESS WITH THE ZOHAN is a rather pleasant surprise. I didnít walk into the film with particularly high hopes- as I have not enjoyed Adam Sandlerís last few comedies (although I thought he was excellent in REIGN OVER ME). The trailers for the film also did not inspire much confidence- although the thing that bothered me most about ZOHAN, is the fact that the film seemed to be satirizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While I have nothing against satire (assuming it`s done well), it seemed to me like Sandler & co. were simply making a film `ridiculing and demonizing Arabs- especially judging from Rob Schneider`s appearance in the trailer as a Palestinian taxi driver.
Happily, YOU DON`T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN- while still a typical zany Sandler comedy, is actually a lot smarter, and warm hearted than I expected it to be. Sandler himself co-wrote the screenplay with SNL vet Robert Smigel, and Judd Apatow (who also produced), and while they do include a lot of stereotypes that may, or may not offend people, they seem more concerned with presenting an argument for peace in Israel & Palestine- which is definitely a message everyone can get behind.
I also really liked Sandler`s performance as the titular ZOHAN. He`s definitely in the best shape of his life (he supposedly trained for months to achieve the super soldier physique he sports in the film), and for once he doesn`t rely on the tired ``meek guy with explosive temper `` shtick that he`s been using since HAPPY GILMORE. Zohan is a smooth, confident, and heroic character, and Sandler seems more alive in this role than he`s been in years. I also found the film to be raunchier than your typical Sandler film (given the amount of dick jokes, and ass cracks shown in the film- I wonder how much of an influence Apatow was in this department), which for me was not a bad thing at all, as the film seemed slightly more adult (though still fairly family friendly) than Sandler`s recent vehicles. I usually only find Sandler films moderately chuckle worthy, but I actually laughed out loud quite a few times during this film- and I nearly wet my pants once George Takei showed up in a scene referencing his recent coming-out.
Another good thing about the film is the supporting cast- top lined by John Turturro as Zohan`s Palestinian nemesis, The Phantom. Turturro`s a great character actor, with a real flair for comedy and he steals every scene that he`s in. Emmanuel le Chriqui plays Sandler`s Palestinian love interest, and besides being smoking hot, she also has pretty good chemistry with Sandler (who`s been lucky in the leading lady department over the last few years- Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and now Chriqui- dude has great taste in women!). SNL vet Kevin Nealon also has a great cameo as a frightened neighbourhood watch volunteer, and even Chris Rock turns up at one point- although his cameo actually falls a little flat.
Despite its many good qualities, ZOHAN does suffer from a few shortcomings. For one- the film is too damn long. At close to two hours, the film feels a little padded, and the film would have been much better had the filmmakers cut out a good 10-20 minutes. I also found the whole urban development subplot centered around Michael ``let`s get ready to RUMBLE!!!`` Buffer`s evil, Donald Trump-ish character a little extraneous, and the film would have been tighter without it.
Minor flaws aside, I enjoyed YOU DON`T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN a heck of a lot more than I thought I would. It`s probably Sandler`s best comedy since THE WEDDING SINGER, which makes it an easy recommendation.