Friday, June 6, 2008

Silky Smooth, with a Nice Sticky Ending

You Don't Mess With Zohan

Release: 06.06.2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 53 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Zohan (Adam Sandler,
The Waterboy) is a counterterrorist agent of unequaled skills in the Israeli military. Despite being a "Rembrandt with a grenade" fighting and killing is not his true passion. Zohan sits in his darkened apartment dreaming of the day when he can move to New York and work for the iconic stylist Paul Mitchell. Upon arriving in New York, he finds his dreams of silky smooth hair difficult to achieve. He must not only hide from Middle Easterners who may recognize him, but Zohan discovers the only salon willing to work with an untrained stylist is owned by a lovely Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Waiting...).

For those of you who imagined You Don't Mess With the Zohan to be outrageously ridiculous, multiply that sentiment by a thousand and you're a smidgen closer to comprehending just how outlandish it is. Zohan is an unstoppable fighting machine. He can disassemble guns at break neck speeds, dodge and catch bullets and even do push ups with no hands. If that sounds a little too much to fathom, I'd suggest you give this flick a wide berth. If you dare to be bold, the over-the-top action antics of Zohan is a treat the likes of which has not been seen since Hot Shots.

It’s not all Herculean feats, retro hairstyles and disco grooving; You Don’t Mess With the Zohan sends a message. The story, penned by Sandler, Robert Smigel (TV Funhouse) and Judd Apatow (Fun With Dick and Jane), repeatedly dips into the troubles in Israel and how the conflict needs a resolution. An admirable message represented by the grudge between Zohan and his nemesis, the terrorist Phantom (John Turturro, Anger Management). In fact, for all its indescribable silliness, Sandler, Turturro and Chriquí play it as straight as it comes. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag. Many just cheese for the camera as their lame accents stumble from underneath bad moustaches. Other veteran supporters, like Lainie Kazan (The Big Hit) give it their Method acting standard. Oh yeah, and Nick Swardson (The Benchwarmers) is hilarious, but sorely underused.

Cameo Corner
We’ve come to expect an occasional wacky cameo in every Sandler screwball comedy, but Zohan is the Mecca of cameos. I’m not going to spoil it with a laundry list of appearances, but I will say that Sandler calls in folks from practically every film he’s done, and then some. I promise – no names - but in one specific instance, there is a cameo from someone I thought should never, never, NEVER appear in film again but she shows up and delivers yet another shudder-worthy performance.

Dirty Undies
The film is brimming with beautiful half-naked women, from Zohan’s adoring Israeli fans to Turturro’s gaggle of wives. Chriqui is yummy with her long dark locks and huge…talents. Surprisingly, Sandler is looking kinda tasty; at least, he bulked and toned his physique for the role. I’m not sure if he was confident enough to let it be himself or a butt double for all the nude scenes but, whoever’s keister it was, kudos! Don’t let the film’s action sequences worry you; it’s the thick sexual exchanges between Zohan and the middle-aged women that should really concern you.

The Money Shot
I get the impression You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is the culmination of Sandler’s wacky films. Not saying he won’t do others after this but I believe, in Sandler’s mind, this is his tour de force. I came in expecting absurdity and even I was shocked. Like Zohan’s beverage of choice, Fizzy Bubala, it may not sit so well to those unaccustomed to its unique flavor.

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