You Don't Mess With The Zohan

By Gerald Aaron, August 14, 2008


Adam Sandler's comedies triumphantly prove Hollywood pioneer Adolf Zukor's dictum: "The public is always right". Sandler may be a irritant to film critics, but his success with movie-goers is indisputable. But is the Israel-Palestinian conflict really a suitable subject for his broad slapstick-prone comedy?

You Don't Mess With the Zohan is disgracefully funny and should garner large audiences looking for entertainment. Its message - a rather naïve but nevertheless potent plea for Arabs and Israelis to get along - will therefore almost certainly reach millions of people. Employing comedy to make serious points is nothing new - Ernst Lubitsch memorably used laughter as a potent weapon against the Nazis in his 1942 classic To Be or Not to Be.

Sandler's Zohan is the leading Israeli commando who fakes his own death after battling his bitter foe, a Palestinian terrorist called the Phantom (amusingly over-the-top John Turturro) and heads for New York to achieve his ambition to be a hair stylist.

Which he does at the salon owned by beautiful Palestinian Dahlia (Emmanuelle Chriqui) on a street populated on the one side by Israeli shopkeepers and on the other by Palestinians. The Palestinians moan of their fellow New Yorkers: "They hate us," to which the Israelis respond: "They hate us too. They think we're you.'' Zohan romances Dahlia and unites the opposing shopkeepers against their common enemy, a rapacious developer who raises their rents to force them out so he can build a shopping mall. Then Palestinian cab driver Salim (Rob Schneider) recognises Zohan and alerts the Phantom.

Sandler's comic persona, loony physical comedy and high spirits carry the sometimes crass proceedings. Blame Sandler, and fellow writers Jud (Knocked Up) Apatow and Robert Smigel for the joke-heavy screenplay (particularly enjoyable are their swipes against Mel Gibson), and settle back for good, if hardly clean, fun. Tasteful it isn't, funny it is.

Last updated: 2:59pm, February 18 2011