Sunday, October 26, 2008

You'll never think of pubic hair the same way again: "You Don't Mess With the Zohan"

And really, isn't such life-changing stuff all you really want from a movie?

I remember being amused at the least and borderline enthused when I saw the trailer for this comedy earlier this year. No, it wasn't an event a la "The Dark Knight," but there seemed to be a decent amount of funny. Even if the name "Zohan" and "Borat" seemed awfully similar coming in such close proximity, the story looked funny enough.

Adam Sandler ("Airheads") is a top Israeli supersoldier, master of all things physical, social and sexual. We get an entertaining setup in Israel establishing this, then learn his dark secret: He wants to cut hair in the U.S. of A. So he fakes his death and steals away to New York, where he has a rough go at first but lands at a hole-in-the-wall salon where he can ply his trade. That is, hairstyling with some nookie in the bathroom for dessert.

While Zohan becomes a hit, some Palestinians who recognize him -- including ever-present Rob Schneider -- want to kill him for real. They're inept, though, which treats us to more ha-ha. In the meantime, sparks fly between Zohan and the salon owner, a Palestinian played by Emmanuelle "Much Hotter than in 'Entourage,' and That's Saying Something" Chriqui. Oh, and the main villain from back in Israel (John "I'll Be in Anything" Turturro) isn't totally out of the picture, either.

So yeah, all sorts of fun. Too bad the laughs aren't there. First, the whole hairstyling schtick has short legs to start with. So all that jazz about the need to cut hair and make people "silky smooth" wears thin fast. The "Zohan as Sex God" thing also is too one-note to keep going with. What made for a funny intro in Israel gets old before long. So do all the Middle Eastern digs, like the omnipresence of hummus. I get it. Really.

The stunt casting of Michael Buffer and Dave Matthews as bad guys, the bits parts by Chris Rock and Charlotte Rae (Yeah ... Mrs. Garrett), and the obligatory celebrity cameos (Mariah Carey, Kevin James and, sigh, John McEnroe) don't help at all. Nor does the semi-political message woven throughout and punctuated at the end. Think Rodney King.

In the end, sure, there's some funny stuff here, mostly at the start. But this is far from Sandler's best and probably would have been better if it didn't have all the usual Sandler crap -- from Schneider to the repetition of jokes/references that really aren't funny. Needed to be more biting and less boilerplate. But I'm sure Sandler will break the mold the next time around. What range!


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