Posted by: Alan | December 21, 2008

Review: You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008)


You Don’t Mess With the Zohan

Director: Dennis Dugan

Writer: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel, Judd Apatow

Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rob Schneider


There are a lot of shitty movies out there. Generally, I can easily tell which movies are going to be shit and which ones are worth taking a chance on. It’s because of this that I avoid a LOT of movies that are released to the mass public because either the trailer, the premise or the people involved immediately tell me that the movie is going to be downright awful.

The thing is, I inevitably watch a lot of these kinds of movies, whether it be because I was ‘forced’ to (by friends or social situations that leave no room to refuse) or because I get curious, or because I know it’s going to be terrible and therefore want to watch it simply to point out all its faults.

For the new Adam Sandler comedy, ‘You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,’ I didn’t think I’d ever watch it. However, due to unforeseen circumstances I got myself a copy of the DVD ‘pro bono.’ After debating it for a while, I eventually decided to sit down, check it out, and write down my thoughts in order to review it properly. I started writing some notes, but as I continued watching the film I realized if I continued it would just be the exact same notes over and over and over. Confused? Read on…

The Premise

Ok so the premise of this movie is pretty ridiculous right off the bat. Adam Sandler plays Zohan, a famous Israeli mercenary (or anti-terrorist, or something to that effect. Basically a super-soldier), who loves to party and doesn’t like to fight wars. He is assigned to a mission to capture the Palestinian terrorist ‘Phantom’ played by John Turturro. He fakes his death and hitches a plane to America to fulfill his dream: to ‘cut and style hair.’

So basically the rest of the movie plays out with Zohan trying to get a job as a hairdresser using all his crazy super powers in various ways. He eventually gets one, gets famous, then his past starts to catch up with him in the shape of Rob Schneider and the Phantom.

This is seriously the entire movie.

So the first thing I felt kind of strange about was something I felt from the trailer as well. Adam Sandler usually plays the same character, with the exception of his occasional good role (Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me) and his ‘wacky’ roles (where he just changes his voice but still acts the same, ie. The Waterboy). So here he is still being Happy Gilmore, or Billy Madison or Sonny Kofax, but now he is of Israeli descent and talks with an accent. As far as I know he wasn’t being offensive, it was just a little strange. It’s the kind of thing they would do on Saturday Night Live, and I guess it’s a little bizarre on that show as well. But either way, there were a lot of other actors in the movie that were actually Israeli, and Arab, and the same nationality of the character they were playing. It just seemed odd to me.

There were some fun special effects, namely with Zohan doing crazy stunts and actions. I did hate the stupid ‘foot uppercut’ scene that everyone has seen from the trailer. It was possibly a funny idea as a one off thing, but then it just kept going, and going. Other than that, there was nothing special about this movie in terms of visuals and acting. It was really super generic and boring, to the point where I can’t even think of anything to make fun of.

Oh yeah a large portion of the movie was devoted to Adam Sandler’s flabby butt cheeks and comically large package.

The character Zohan is probably one of the least flawed characters ever made. He has no ‘bad’ qualities, at least in the context of the movie, and this basically made very little conflict throughout the movie. I think the biggest conflict was Zohan trying to get a hairdresser job, which was solved halfway through the movie, and then all of a sudden he has to get the Phantom again, and there are some other characters hired to cause war between the Palestinians and Israelis, and the movie basically implodes on itself within the first hour.

The whole time I was watching the movie I tried to envision how the writers came up with the character of Zohan. My guess is that Adam Sandler proposed the idea of this Israeli super soldier who wants to do some ‘mundane’ type of occupation (styling hair) and they went from there. But in the end Sandler was able to play a character that was, essentially, everything he wanted to be. It’s as if he was acting out his fantasies on screen and tried to revolve a film around it.

When Zohan has to come up with a fake name (since he’s making a new life for himself, y’understand) the best he can muster is ‘Scrappy Coco.’ This irritated me a lot, for whatever reason. Was this the funniest fake name they could come up with? It’s something I can see Adam Sandler saying with a smirk and then laughing at himself, and they kept it because at the time it was the funniest thing they ever heard. But the more it’s said in the movie the less funny it becomes. This is also the case with the phrase ‘Silky Smooth’ which is used probably more times than the word ‘fuck’ is used in Pulp Fiction.

Oh, and Chris Rock had a cameo as a Jamaican Cab Driver, and has a terrible accent to go with it.

There was a pretty interesting soundtrack to this film actually, and I found myself enjoying the fact that they steered away from too many recognizable tracks and instead focused on setting the mood of the film with their music selections. That being said, there really wasn’t too much that jumped out at me as being ‘great’ or ‘perfect’ for the film. It was nothing great, but not as terrible as it could have been (Linkin Park).

I realized after the movie finished that amidst all the pubic hair jokes and zaniness, they seemed to be trying to share a message of some kind. However it was pretty vague, and thrown in just at the end of the movie unexpectedly. This little fact made me start to appreciate the movie a little bit more, but not enough to detract from the mess of a plot, terrible characters, and unfunny jokes.

In the end I think this movie was essentially a SNL skit gone too long. A bad SNL skit. Adam Sandler is slowly losing the respect I gained for him after seeing Punch Drunk Love. The movie is a mess, and as a person who loves to laugh, I was constantly waiting for something funny to happen since it’s marketed as, you know, a comedy. But in the end, I don’t recall having a single moment where I felt the urge to even chuckle.

There are some movies that are enjoyable to watch simply because they’re terrible. But on the other hand, there are movies that are so terrible they aren’t even fun to make fun of. Zohan is one of those movies. Don’t bother.

– Alan


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