Background: Maybe it's just me, but for a second there I thought Adam Sandler was done with comedy. He weirded up for Punch-Drunk Love, tried a romantic novela with Spanglish, and swung for the Oscar fences with Reign Over Me. Of course, the truth was that he frequently squeezed comedies in between, but I just avoided almost all of them after Big Daddy. With You Don't Mess With the Zohan, Sandler reteams with his usual director, Dennis Dugan (don't let Happy Gilmore overshadow his directing debut with Problem Child), as well as some 90's SNL cast members, the up-and-coming Nick Swardson (Blades of Glory, "Reno 911!"), and the odd man out, John Turturro (Margot at the Wedding). Zohan was written by Sandler, SNL scribe Robert Smigel, and - you're not going to believe this - Judd Apatow, who also wrote this review. Yep, his name is printed here, so he wrote it.
Synopsis : Zohan (Sandler) is an Israeli counter-terrorism agent on vacation. Which means, of course, that he is usually naked and always gyrating his hips. A nude barbecue is interrupted when he's whisked away on assignment because his rival, The Phantom (Turturro), is causing trouble in Lebanon. Zohan reluctantly sets off in his usual outfit (a Mariah Carey t-shirt and Daisy Dukes) and dispatches of some Arabs on the way to the showdown with The Phantom, where he fakes his own death. Free of his military duties, he's off to New York City with a new identity ("Scrappy Coco") to fulfill his dream of being a hairstylist for Paul Mitchell. Somehow (it's shown, but not explained) he ends up living with a random Jewish guy (Swardson) and his mother, but he's unsuccessful in his job search until he settles for a salon "on the Palestinian side of the street," which happens to be owned by the beautiful Dalia. Zohan soon charms the pants (um, literally) off the salon's regular elderly women, who begin lining up at the door for his "services". Meanwhile, Dalia is fighting off hotel developers while Salim (Schneider), a former Palestinian foe of Zohan, learns his identity and prepares to strike. OK, let's just get this over with. The Phantom comes to New York for a hacky-sack tournament. Rednecks from the South are called up to incite Israeli-Palestinian violence. Mariah Carey shows up. So do a bunch of other people you'd recognize. Uh, let me think, some other stuff happens, yeah, it ends with a big fight and some kind of truce...whatever. Sex and hummus: that's the movie.
+ Kevin Nealon - what a great comeback!
+ Nick Swardson, who's starting to get a lot of attention here in his native Minnesota. And could he have looked any more like the child of Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and/or Noah Emmerich?
+ The disco break at the hacky-sack game.
+ Dave Matthews - who knew he could nail the part of a redneck?
+ Rob Schneider - he wasn't really that funny, but he at least tried to "act" more than anyone else.
- Zohan's voice - like a combination of Borat, Billy Madison, and Jar-Jar Binks.
- The Israeli accents that sounded French more than anything else.
- The hummus. What was that about?
Writing - 6
Acting - 6
Production - 8
Emotional Impact - 7
Music - 5
Significance - 5
Total: 37/50= 74% = C
Last Word: I should really underline the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict frames the entire length of You Don't Mess With the Zohan. For attempting some dialogue on the issue - as ridiculous as it might be - I commend Sandler. For everything else, I shame him, because the movie is, believe it or not, even more immature than Billy Madison. Repetitive sex jokes aren't really gut-busting, and the obsession with hummus (dipping eyeglasses in it to lick it off?) becomes more obnoxious than it could have ever seemed on paper. Worse, half of the humor depends on at least a basic understanding of Arab/Israeli relations, which I for some reason doubt is possessed by the movie's target audience. I won't deny that there are funny moments every now and then, but it could have been a lot funnier and a lot sharper overall, especially with the solid cast. Why waste writing and comedic acting talent on stupid subplots and toilet humor - and then take it a step further and dress it up as some kind of funny cultural satire? Here's some free advice: don't you mess with the Zohan when it arrives on DVD...