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You Don't Mess
With The Zohan

Israel and Palestine have been at odds for over a thousand years. The Middle East has been at turmoil ever since as battles wage over a holy land and it’s rightful heirs. Peace has been sought, and many a peacekeeper has tried to maintain a reasonable concord and ultimately failed. And then came Adam Sandler.

In Adam Sandler’s new movie, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, he brings the Israel/Palestine struggle to the masses with an absurd and stereotypical farce. Sandler plays the Zohan, a Mossad super agent, who loves to Disco Disco and down bottles of a fizzy soft drink. After just a few minutes it's painfully obvious why you shouldn’t mess with the Zohan. He’s cool, carefree, confident, popular and strong as an ox. Literally!

On vacation and loving it, the Zohan is reluctantly called out of retirement to re-capture a Palestinian terrorist known as The Phantom (No, not Billy Zane; this Phantom is played by the unbalanced John Turturro.)

However it turns out that our little Zohan is tired of all the fighting. Where does it end, really? All our sensitive killer wants to really do is cut and style hair, the 1984 Paul Mitchell way. With no support from his friends or family, the Zohan’s left with little choice and fakes his death in his confrontation with The Phantom, sneaking off to America to follow his dream to make everyone’s hair silky smooth.

Unfortunately for the Zohan, America isn’t as accommodating as Israel and he finds the transition confusing. He soon befriends hapless New York bicyclist Michael (A refreshingly non-gay Nick Swardson) and soon the Zohan begins his journey to become the best hair stylist in New York.

This leads to him finding himself right back in the middle of the conflict he left behind in the Middle East, as the Zohan ends up in a part of New York that has Israeli businesses on one side of the street and Palestinian owned ones on the other. It’s here he finds the only shop in the city that will give him work; regrettably, it’s on the Palestinian corner.

Here the Zohan finds a home for the time being and hiding the fact that he’s Israeli he continues his quest to be the best and destroy all who oppose him. More or less.

Directed by Happy Madison regular Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, Chuck and Larry), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is a funny movie. It’s ridiculous but very likable. However, being an average informed viewer, I’m not sure how racist it really is.

The film plays very strongly on the stereotypes of Middle Easterners, but makes fun of both sides equally. What it also does wisely is to not make these characters one dimensional, but to give them actual development so that when we laugh it’s at the situations these people are in and not at their ethnicity.

The movie also flows really well, and mechanically at least, is by far a big improvement on Dugan and Sandler’s previous effort I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry, which was just an editing mess.

And like most Sandler movies of late, this film is thick with theme and message. Not only is the Zohan tired of the endless fighting between the two peoples, so is Sandler. Written by Sandler and unsung comedy great Robert Smigel (Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, SNL, Conan O’Brien), Zohan hopes to solve a millennia plus' old conflict in the span of a summer popcorn flick. (And if it were that simple, he probably could with this flick)

Zohan has its laughs. The cast is likable if not hard to understand through thick accents. Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage) is smoking hot as the Zohan’s love interest Dalia, and Rob Schneider returns to prove that he can offend just about every ethnicity as the Palestinian cab driver Salim. The supporting cast is good, and a sexy cameo from Mrs. Garret will have even the mildest of Facts of Life fans' attention.

My favorite part was a call back to an old SNL sketch in an electronics store where the salesmen were trying to pass knock-off gear for name brand prices all the while saying, “Not Sony, Same thing, got Sony guts.”

The best parts in this film is when the Zohan is the Zohan and he’s righting wrong. Sandler is in great shape, and he pretty much runs around mostly naked the whole film, but I’m sure the ladies will love it.

Overall, the movie is wacky and absurd, but it’s not bad. It doesn’t sacrifice story for the sake of laughs, it has both and they work well together. The message doesn’t bog down the story too much, and the portrayal of the different ethnicities doesn’t seem that offensive. And if Sandler has his way, he will bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together…at least in a movie theatre.

Lon Lopez

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