Sony // 2008 // 117 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 29th, 2008
Lather. Rinse. Save the world.
Adam Sandler's requisite entry into the summer comedy lineup tells the tale of an Israeli counter-terror specialist and his love affair with hairdressing. If only the film itself were as funny as that sentence.
Zohan (Sandler) is Israel's most powerful secret agent, a one-man wrecking crew who can single-handedly take down an entire fortress full of terrorists. But he is tired of war and yearns to move to America and live out his dream as a Paul Mitchell stylist. So following his latest mission, a one-on-one takedown of "The Phantom" (John Turturro, Transformers), his arch-nemesis, Zohan packs up and heads to New York City, where he secures a job in the local Palestinian-owned salon, working for the beautiful proprietor (Emanuelle Chriqui, Tortured).
But no matter how hard Zohan tries to hide under the radar, his past catches up with him, as The Phantom makes an unexpected return and a greedy land developer attempts to pit Arab against Jew to condemn the entire block so he can build a mall.
Setting aside the film's good-natured, but laughably simple-minded attempts to tackle the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the only question that needs to be asked of You Don't Mess with the Zohan is this: will this make me laugh? My short answer: Don't count on it.
There are a couple of modifiers we can toss in to gauge, if you might bellow out one or two more chortles than me. First, are you an Adam Sandler fan? If you are, you'll no doubt have a higher threshold for laughter than if you're going into this harboring a grudge against the guy. I'm an "early stuff" Adam Sandler fan, having loathed myself and my poor decision making skills after languishing with crap like Big Daddy and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, incidentally, both of which are also half-assed message movies.
So my expectations were low, but I still had expectations. With Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow (is there anything this guy doesn't have his fingers in these days?) attached to the script, I figured there was a semi-decent chance of guffawing. Alas, that's not the case. Which brings me to the second modifier: how do you feel about ridiculous humor like the main character doing push-ups without his hands, surfing on cars, swimming 100 miles per hour and treating a chair in a salon like a pommel horse? This is a profoundly stupid movie, falling just short of an Airplane!-like gag-at-any-cost construct, mainly because that movie's funny and this one isn't. However if your humor sensibilities tend more towards the "fish-stuck-in-a-buttcrack" variety, maybe, just maybe, you'll get a kick out of this experience.
For me, Zohan started out surprisingly strong. His exploits as a roided-out, gravity-defying Israeli Jack Bauer yielded a handful of laughs. But as soon as the film shifted to New York City, and the clichéd "fish-out-of-water" scenario kicked in, the laugh frequency dropped off precipitously. From that point on, the highlight was a montage with Zohan sensually washing the hair of some horny older women (including -- gasp! -- Mrs. Garrett!!!). After that, though, we're talking flat-line. Not even cameos from Dave Matthews and Mariah Carey were able to breath life into this patient.
Also disappointing: the high-def treatment. Yes, things look and sound better on Blu-ray, but the video quality (1.85:1 widescreen) is not nearly as dynamic as it should be -- especially for a new release. The colors are strong, mainly because of Zohan's flamboyant surroundings, but the detailing is soft and a far cry from the crispness and depth seen in the top-shelf releases. An upgrade over the standard-definition release, sure, but not enough to drop jaws or to sucker you into spending a significant amount of extra money on. The lossless TrueHD 5.1 track is preferred, but aside from the action-heavy first 15 minutes, there isn't a whole lot for the mix to do. Worse, the only Blu exclusive extra is a boring pop-up "Zohan translator" trivia track. Other extras: two commentary tracks featuring director Dennis Dugan on one and Sandler, Smigel, and actors Rob Schneider and Nick Swardson on the other; deleted scenes; and 15 behind-the-scenes featurettes, covering cameos, stunts, making-of, outtakes, fake newscasts, production design and, the finest of the batch, an interesting look at the relationship between the Arab and Jewish actors on the set.
Don't Mess with the Zohan: Really, really stupid, not very funny and far from the slickest Blu-ray. Both unrated and PG-13 theatrical cuts are included. Four minutes represents the difference in runtimes.
Guilty. Sentence: Twenty months community service in the Golan Heights cleaning urinals.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Two Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Pop-Up Trivia Track