You Don't Mess with the Zohan
directed by Dennis Dugan
(Sony, 2008)

You Don't Mess with the Zohan is an action-spoof with funnyman Adam Sandler as Israeli counterterrorist Zohan Dvir. Despite his superhuman abilities, Zohan tires of the constant fighting, fakes his death and heads to America to pursue his dream -- cutting and styling hair.

The comic potential is vast here, and much of it is tapped in Zohan. Zohan's enthusiasm for the trade is palpable, even if he learned everything he knows from a 1980s styling guide and practiced his art on a pair of shaggy dogs. Unfortunately, Zohan has a schtick -- he likes to have sex with elderly women -- and the movie beats that schtick into the ground.

It's telling that in one scene, he is hot for a lady until she turns around and he recognizes his mom.

Besides his pelvic thrusts into his customers' faces while he works, Zohan makes orgasmic use of water nozzles, shampoos and any other fluids he can grab. If that isn't enough, he takes each woman into the back room for some wall-shaking sex before moving on to his next customer. Of course, the notion here is that older, heavyset women are so desperate they'll have sex with anyone who makes a move, so of course women are soon lining up for Zohan's services. Ha ha ha! (I'll ignore that Zohan refers to most of them as "Mrs.," so we can assume many have a "Mr." back home who thinks they're just out getting their hair cut.) And, while Emmanuelle Chriqui (as Dahlia) makes an attractive, personable salon owner, it's hard to fathom how easily her savvy character falls in love with the guy who's shagging every customer in the shop -- even if he does bring in enough money to save the business from the evil industrialist who wants to build a mall.

It's rarely a good idea to let a movie ride on the strength of a single joke. If the joke flops, as this one did (quite literally in a memorable scene with Charlotte Rae), the whole movie suffers. In Zohan, it would have been nice to pursue a few other lines of comic potential and tone this one down a bit.

review by
Tom Knapp

2 January 2009

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