You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

Lots of off-beat fun, 18 August 2008

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Do not be put off by some of the carping criticism that this film has received. It is very funny, made me laugh out loud, and dares to touch on some areas of humour which are traditionally taboo, especially in American cinema. I am not a particular Adam Sandler fan, and have only seen “Happy Gilmore” of his previous work. But I was highly entertained by some genuinely amusing set pieces, and his exploration of humour in very dangerous territory.

The plot line is simple enough. Zohan, the uber counter terrorist Mossad agent, decides to hang up his Uzi for a pair of hairdressers scissors in New York. But the past is never far behind…………………………………… The opening scenes which establish his credentials as a super agent are funny, fast paced and engaging with plenty of wry self deprecating put downs including his parents begging him to “play safe” in his present job. After faking his death at the hands of his arch rival, the Phantom played by John Turrito, he then resurfaces in New York.

At this point two things are worth mentioning. Firstly Turrito plays the Phantom for laughs, which ironically drains some of the humour. A straight “bad guy” would have been funnier. Secondly the “second act” is primarily made up of crude, sexual innuendo which is wholly inappropriate for an audience that can get into a UK 12A certification. It is very funny, and there are plenty of laughs to be had from a youngish hairdresser with no hairdressing skills acquiring superstar status by “banging old ladies with big tits”. But it is miles away from the humour of the trailer and the first fifteen minutes.

The part of Zohan appears to have been inspired by Sasha Cohen’s “Borat”, but Sandler insists that his idea for this film pre-dates Borat. It certainly shares the same mad cap humour. The two calls to the “Hezbolah helpline” are wonderful vignettes. However the heavy hand of Hollywood is never far away and Zohan’s romance with the astonishingly beautiful Palestinian hairdresser boss Dalia. played by Emmanuelle Chirqui, is played for feel good value, rather than the devilment it could have been. Equally the artificial introduction of a greedy property developer and White Ayrian Supremacists are artificial ,and a device to move the “villainy” around. The cameo appearances by Mariah Carey and John McCenroe are extraordinary for them being totally unnecessary.

A denouement with a message that we should all just get on together is a bit too sugary for my tastes, and plays to American sensibilities. Nonetheless this is a brave attempt at satire, and for the most part comes off. Possibly twenty minutes too long, a “harder” story stripped of the saccharine ending would have been stronger. Still well worth a look though.

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