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You Don't Mess with the Zohan /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Adam Sandler, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jon Turturro, Rob Schneider, Nick Swardson

Directed by: Dennis Dugan

Produced by: Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler
Written by: Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Robert Smigel
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing

     What exactly about the idea of making his comedies ďtopicalĒ attracted Adam Sandler in the first place? I have nothing against humor that tackles contemporary socio-political issuesóin fact, I tend to believe that this sort of daring combination can provide material an added kickóbut the only thing funny about Sandlerís recent attempts to be relevant is the pathetic nature of the attempts themselves. Last year, the popular comedian and director Dennis Dugan tried to make a statement on the gay marriage issueómurky as that statement may have beenówith their embarrassingly hypocritical and unfunny I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Now, the pair is back for second helpings in the ďimportant statementĒ-genre, sharing a few thoughts on the Israel/Palestine conflict in You Donít Mess with the Zohan, a movie about an Israeli Counterterrorist who leaves his hectic military-life to go to America and become a hairstylist.

     The reason why Sandlerís brand of comedy doesnít mesh well with social commentary is fairly obvious: it isnít smart enough to do so effectively. Because all of his trademark humor consists of facile poo-poo-gah-ga jokes, all political additions must therefore be dumbed-down in order to not seem out-of-place. In Chuck and Larryís case, the only message Sandler and director Dugan were able to reasonably communicate was a simple and unnecessary ďWhy canít we all just get along?Ē (This, of course, was purported in a movie that was meanwhile ravenously homophobic.) Sandlerís newfound blend of the Juvenile and the Psuedo-Intellectual feels like the inverse of, say, what The Shawshank Redemption mightíve been had Morgan Freeman randomly joked about the size of Tim Robbinsí penis every ten minutes.

     Fortunately, You Donít Mess with the Zohan is better than Chuck and Larry by leaps and bounds. The reason is simple: whereas the earlier filmís sense of comedy was constantly bogged down by heavy-handed messages about tolerance, this oneís second act includes hardly any political material. The viewer may have to endure an hour and fifteen minutesí worth of poorly-constructed hoopla about the strife between the focal two Middle-Eastern groupsóthe most painful of which involves a subplot about Sandlerís Zohan stealing a goat from Palestinian ex-farmer, now-NYC-taxicab-driver Salim (Rob Schneider, of course)óbut they also get to enjoy a half-hour of Pure Sandler. And when I say Pure Sandler, I mean the Sandler of the 1990s, not the recently-weak starrer of mediocre efforts like Click and Mr. Deeds. Yes, the majority of this half-hour consists of entirely vile humoróthe most obnoxious of which follows Zohanís tendency to sleep with his elderly female clients when he is finally hired as a hairdresseróbut itís so well played and outrageous that it proves nearly impossible not to laugh at. (I say this as one who hasnít so much as chuckled at a Sandler Comedy in at least five years.)  The majority of You Donít Mess with the Zohan isnít great, but the movie shows obvious signs of life, which, as far as Iím concerned, is more than any of the actorís comedies since 2000ís Little Nicky have.

     Even if they donít crack a smile at You Donít Mess with the Zohan, Sandlerís typical male viewers will at least be able to engage themselves in the limitless beauty of lead actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, who plays Zohanís love-interest and employer. As for women audiences: they were planning on going to Sex and the City for the second time instead anyway. You Donít Mess with the Zohan certainly isnít a success, but itís not without its simple merits either. Now more than any other time in recent history, I have a feeling that Sandler may finally make a great comedy provided that he lays off the politics. And with the seemingly-unstoppable Judd Apatow writing and directing one of the starís next projects, this great comedy may be arriving in theatres much sooner than many of us had previously expected.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 6.8.2008

Screened on: 6.7.2008 at MovieMax Theatres in Carlsbad, CA.


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