You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">You Don’t Mess With The Zohan</strong> (2008)

(In theaters, June 2008) It’s easy to be harsh on Adam Sandler and the crude messy vehicles he chooses. But there’s something else going on with this generally harmless comedy about a libidinous Israeli agent faking his own death to become a New York hairdresser, subsequently falling in love with a Palestinian. It’s a big dumb populist comedy using very serious themes as comedy fodder, exploiting the evening news as a baseline against which to deviate. Sure, the Sandler character is still dumb as bricks (albeit ridiculously gifted in the finer point of counter-terrorism) and the hummus/Fizzy-Bubblech/hacky-sack shtick can wear thin, but a large chunk of the film can also be spent wondering how serious geopolitical issues can end up with Rob Schneider playing an Arab terrorist sympathizer. It’s a reasonably funny film in a lazy and easy way (the sequence in which Sandler and friends play hacky-sack using a curiously willing pet cat as a ball is pure whimsical fun, for instance), but it works more than it doesn’t, even when it veers away from normal comedic unreality into sheer fantasy. Props be given to the man, Sandler actually comes across as a believable action hero in the film’s most outlandish scenes, and manages to old ladies seduction look endearing rather than creepy. But even his better-than-average performance takes a back seat to the audacity of the film’s concept, and the almost schizophrenic way it boils down complex issues to matters that could be settled with inter-cultural dating, American integration, competitive sports and a bucket of hummus. One wonders how much better Munich would have been had it had it adopted the same viewpoint. At the very least, it got me started on a hummus binge.

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