Sandler film is mostly a waste of time


The new Adam Sandler comedy You Don’t Mess With The Zohan has the comedian as an Israeli Mossad agent who secretly wants to be a hairdresser. Beyond the absurdity inherent in that statement, the film looked like it had some comedic potential. After all, West Bank Story, the Oscar winning short comedy, found real comedy gold in the human side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You Don’t Mess With The Zohan does not.

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is a mess of a film, with a meandering, limp plot that mostly serves to take us from one set of risqu é jokes to another without much focus or purpose. Apart from a few chuckles, many of the jokes fall flat as well. There is a little bit of comic ribbing about Israelis and Arabs but much less than you might expect. If crude and rude jokes make you laugh, this one might have some appeal for you.

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Israeli superstar counter-terrorist Zohan (Adam Sandler) is the master of all skills, whether grilling nude on the beach (and catching objects in the clenched cheeks of his bare rear end) or battling his Palestinian super-terrorist equivalent, The Phantom (John Turturro). But Zohan is tired of fighting terrorists and longs to pursue his secret dream career as a hairstylist in New York. Clutching his 1980s hairstyle book, Zohan secretly sneaks off to New York where despite his thick Israeli accent, he poses as an Australian to start a new life.

In America, he finds himself on a street with both Israelis and Palestinian immigrants. There are the usual Middle Eastern stereotypes about cab drivers and so forth and he also meets a bevy of old ladies more interested in Zohan’s bedroom skills than his haircutting.

Lainie Kazan appears as one of Zohan’s amorous ladies and Rob Schneider is a would-be terrorist who keeps trying to call the Hamas terrorist hotline for guidance.

Rather than take a cue from West Bank Story, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan has as its primary focus Zohan’s sexual prowess with the little old ladies, rather than even his haircutting skills. There is the obligatory love story but the film invests little energy in it. However, crotch jokes figure prominently. The disorganized script bounces between a coming-to-America story, a parody of action hero movies, a rich developer pushing out poor immigrants, and running gags about inept Palestinian would-be terrorists. Any one of these could have worked to structure the film but it seemed that Sandler could not make up his mind.

Besides the sexual humor, there are jokes about Sandler’s Israeli accent, lots of hummus, hacky sack and other 80s jokes, all tied up with a pat can’t-we-all-get-along bow. It is all very light and very silly. Sometimes it is funny.

Like other recent Sandler comedies, it strives for the charm of his The Wedding Singer but fails to connect. Doubtless, some Adam Sandler fan will see this throw-in-everything approach as a brilliant commentary on conventions of comedy films. If the film had been funnier, that might have worked. As it is, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is only for really serious Adam Sandler fans.