The Good: Moments of message
The Bad: Not funny, Wastes good cast members, Predictable, Lame character development, Moments of message
The Basics: A terrible film not worth anyone's time or attention, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is not funny, not clever and certainly not constructive.
Sometimes, it is only in assembling lists that I discover I have overlooked something I thought I had reviewed. For example, when I was making my list of the "Worst Films Of 2008,” I discovered that I had never actually penned a review of the film You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, even though it easily made that list. Now on DVD, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is just as bad and a film I loathed having to suffer through again.
Whenever people pitch the "worst movie of the year" or make grandiose claims that certain films are the worst film of a certain time frame, I suspect they forget about works like You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. So, for example, for all of the problems some reviewers had with Twilight, it is hard to take them seriously when they declare that film to be worse than You Don’t Mess With The Zohan or The Love Guru. Similarly, when people claim that 2008 wasn't all that bad in the theaters, my first questions tend to be "Did you see Disaster Movie or (Stupid) Quarantine?" I preface my considerations of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan with these thoughts because it is an utter waste of time, talent and the DVD medium. And sitting through it twice now just left me feeling robbed of time and life.
Zohan is an Israeli secret agent who has no greater ambitions than to cut hair. A superstar in Israel, he dances, plays hackey sack, has sex with many women and catches numerous things - like a fish - in his butt. As the violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians escalates, Zohan sees no potential end to the violence and the rise of an equally powerful adversary, the Phantom, leaves him wishing for more.
So, Zohan fakes his own death by appearing to let the Phantom defeat him in hand-to-hand combat. As many women mourn the loss of Zohan, he escapes to the United States where he assumes an alter ego as a hairdresser. As a corrupt real estate developer moves in on a New York City neighborhood, Zohan raises business at Dahlia's boutique by cutting hair and having sex with all of her clients. Soon, though, Zohan is spotted by a man he once wronged, Salim, who is furious over Zohan taking his goat some years before. Salim threatens to expose the Phantom as a fraud for not killing the Zohan and they converge upon Zohan at a sham hackey sack tournament as the real estate developer hires some white supremacists to burn everything down.
Every now and then, there is a movie that just makes one sit up and say "wow, this is a stupid movie." You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is one such stupid movie, but not for all of the reasons one might think. For example, a comedy about Arab and Israeli relations is about due. The fundamental concept of this flick is not a bad one. The problem is in the execution. So, for example, watching Adam Sandler as the Zohan grill naked and shoot a fish out of his butt has no real redeeming value. And by the time that the viewer gets to more telling, quirky funny bits like Salim's obsession with the goat Zohan once took, the viewer already does not care. Why? In between there are a slew of jokes that virtually all boil down to the idea that it is somehow funny that Zohan has sex with middle aged women or senior citizens of all body types.
Moreover, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is so forced with its generic and stupid form of humor that it has to telegraph it. This is essentially the function of Gail's son. Gail takes the Zohan in and her son walks in on Zohan and her repeatedly having sex. The joke then is about the son's revulsion and as most of the things with that character, the lines he delivers are essentially saying, "this is what you ought to be laughing at." The problem is, this type of humor is likely to only appeal to the 13 year-old members of the PG-13 audience. And of those, it's not even the brightest and certainly not the most mature 13 year-olds that will find it funny.
By the time the humor gets around to actually being political, it is far too late and hardly funny. So, when Zohan's friends in New York City begin talking politics, the conversation soon degenerates into a conversation on which politician's wives each of the men would be willing to have sex with.
Far more insidious in the film is the equation of Israelis and Arabs with terrorists, though to be fair to Sandler, Smigel and the other writers, they are indiscriminate in their prejudice. Both the Israeli characters and the Palestinian ones are heavily armed and have all sorts of weapons just laying around. This - even in the context of a comedy - reinforces the prejudice that "they" are all terrorists. And it is in that regard that the film has its one decent exchange of dialogue. One Arab character says "People hate us because they think we are terrorists!" to which an Israeli character notes, "People hate us because they think we are you!" There is plenty of hate to go around in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan and unfortunately, when it is not overtly combating the hate, it is subversively reinforcing the worst prejudices about the Israelis and the Palestinians.
At least as offensive is the sheer amount of talent that You Don’t Mess With The Zohan wastes. Talented comedians show up for quick appearances that do not utilize their talents or make them the butt of jokes pertaining to one aspect of their personality. So, for example, Chris Rock's appearance as a cab driver is short and disappointing. That George Takei, Dave Allen and Kevin Nealon went anywhere near this movie is unfortunate.
And of the principles, one tends to expect what they get from both Adam Sandler (who plays Zohan) and Rob Schneider, who is "disguised" as the Arab Salim, but that John Turturro gets sucked into this crapfest is just offensive. Turturro has a great ability to play comedic as well as dramatic. And I had to watch Cradle Will Rock (reviewed here!) after seeing this movie on DVD just to cleanse my palate because Turturro plays a character of such integrity in that film. But in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Turturro is wasted, even with his sense of comedy. As the Phantom, he flops with the physical comedy and the verbal gags are hardly funny enough to waste his abilities on.
Now on DVD, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan includes a bevy of deleted scenes which add nothing to the movie, featurettes on the behind-the-scenes antics and development of the movie and commentary tracks that are not funny either. Those who find this movie funny are hardly the type who will enjoy commentary tracks and Sandler and Schneider, who both appear on the commentary track, are particularly unenlightening about anything in regards to the movie.
For those even considering You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, just ask yourself if there isn't some better way to waste two hours of your life. Having wasted over four hours on this insipid "comedy," I can tell you: there are better uses of your time!
For other works with Nick Swardson, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Jack And Jill
30 Minutes Or Less
Just Go With It
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry
For other movie reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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