Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

You Don't Mess With The Zohan

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If silliness equaled greatness, You Don't Mess With The Zohan would instantly join Citizen Kane and It's A Wonderful Life high atop the pantheon of great American films. The latest Adam Sandler vehicle— which was co-written by the formidable team of Sandler, Judd Apatow, and Robert Smigel—is spectacularly, unimpeachably, relentlessly preposterous. In the hands of a crackpot genius like Stephen Chow, this cartoonish romp about a Mossad operative turned New York hairdresser might have been sublimely silly. In the hands of professional Sandler crony Dennis Dugan, it's merely amiably ridiculous.

In a performance so ludicrous it threatens to retroactively negate his dramatic turns in Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Spanglish, Sandler plays a super-soldier who tires of endless warfare and sectarian violence and decides to fake his own death and start anew under an assumed name. In New York, he quickly becomes a superstar hairdresser, partly due to his swarthy Mediterranean charm and flair with scissors but mostly due to his habit of sexually servicing his geriatric clientele. But Sandler's past comes back to haunt him when terrorist/cab-driver Rob Schneider alerts Sandler's equally outsized arch-nemesis (John Turturro) to the legendary Israeli folk hero's whereabouts and fabulous new identity.

Sandler plays the title character as an over-the-top cross between Paul Bunyan, Rambo, and Warren Beatty in Shampoo. He catches bullets with his nostril, swims like a dolphin, has what appears to be an overweight groundhog in his shorts, and is able to instantly transform a volley of stones hurled at him by angry Palestinian kids into a charming rock animal. To borrow a phrase from Mr. Show, Zohan repeatedly brings moviegoers to the verge of laughter, only to leave them there; it's sure to inspire plenty of embarrassed smiles but few belly laughs, unless audiences find the unconventional use of hummus, hacky-sack, and disco-dancing (three of the film's limp running gags) inherently hilarious. Sandler's famously easy-to-please fans will certainly find it amusing, but for anyone over the age of 12, it's considerably more goofy than good.