In what circle of Hell did YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN get the green light? It’s not that we go to an Adam Sandler comedy, those in which he has a producing and writing credit, that is, with hopes high. Or even raised for that matter. But this stinking pile of crass anti-humor masquerading as a politically enlightened romp is a new low even for him. The film opens with a close-up of his bulging crotch and remains in that territory, in every sense, for the 113 minutes that it violates the screen.
This time he’s Israeli counter-terrorist Zohan, a one-man commando squad and hacky-sack player extraordinaire who longs for something more out of life. More than is ebulliently overstuffed crotch, that is, the one that figures in almost every frame of this film. After his arch-nemesis, The Phantom (John Turturro), is traded back to the Palestinians for some captured Mossad, he decides the time is right to pursue his dream. He hops a plane to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a hairdresser, to make the world, as he puts it with annoying frequency, silky smooth. And that is just about as good as this flick gets, good being a relative term.
Sandler has made what seems to be a very personal film here. Personal in the sense that he was amusing himself. And there is little doubt that the CGI shots of him demolishing bad guys with slo-mo martial arts and fast-mo derring-do panders to his ego. Alas, that leaves the audience out in the cold. Funny accents, cat abuse, and a script that leaves no woman unmocked are what make Sandler chuckle. Stereotypes purveyed with no wit or insight, gallons of hummus, and a sudden, unwarranted segue into the Rocky mythos round out a film that goes from awful to horrendous to jaw-droppingly execrable. It’s not just the unholy and frequent coupling of Sandler and the joyously zaftig Lainie Kazan, it’s not just the shots of Sandler tonguing an elderly woman’s hair as he gives her a shampoo. No, it’s that somehow Sandler thinks that by putting forth a hot Palestinian girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui) for Zohan, as well as some trite observations about the similarities between Arabs and Israelis, he is making a profound statement. Insult to injury doesn’t begin to cover it. Mariah Carey, evil developers, and rednecks are also embroiled in the proceedings, but none of that matters, except to wonder why Mariah Carey, who has successfully salvaged her post-GLITTER career, would let herself in for the lampooning she takes here.
YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN is half an unfunny joke stretched beyond the limits of human endurance. A man’s obsession with his own genitalia is one thing, it’s one of the more important reasons that the species has survived up until now, but working it out in public by making it the centerpiece of a film without adding anything to it but the stuffing of a codpiece does a disservice to cinema, to its audience, and to genitalia everywhere.