Saturday, June 21, 2008

You Don't Mess With The Zohan

Teach Me To Be Silky Smooth

Comedies go up against each other at the local box office, with Adam Sandler squaring off against Steve Carell, and incidentally, both lead characters in their movies are of the spy / special forces kind, with Sandler's Zohan Dvir being the top Israeli counter-terrorist operative, and Carell's Maxwell Smart thinking he's the best, working for the CONTROL organization to bring down KAOS. Just which agent will outdo the other remains to be seen, but I thought Zohan had opportunity before throwing it away when it goes back to the usual saccharine sweet ending with a nicely inserted moral message of peace and harmony.

Directed by Dennis Dugan who was at the helm of comedies like The Benchwarmers and the recent Adam Sandler movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, You Don't Mess With The Zohan has its title come across as a warning to those who cross the Zohan's path. In every sense of the word, Zohan is Israel's #1 superhero for his superhuman strength, speed, agility, and just about being as indestructible as Superman, without that heat ray bursting through his eyes. Having killed many in his lifetime, he seeks a life away from the glitz, glamour and hero worship in his homeland, and harbours a secret desire to style hair, with the ambition to make the world Silky Smooth!

Going up against his arch-enemy The Phantom (John Turturro), he fakes his own death, and finds his way to New York, where under a pseudonym Scrappy Coco, he exhibits the much stereotyped mannerisms that all male hairdressers have broken wrists. Yes people, Zohan would be quite offensive to some, as the jokes come hard and fast when it comes to race (there are tons of Arab jokes here, mostly putting them in bad light), politics (even wives of prominent politicians are not spared) and plenty of sexual innuendoes, perhaps no thanks to the writing input from Judd Apatow, who gave us flicks like Superbad (super-sized dong anyone?), The 40-Year Old Virgin, and the likes. If you don't mind politically incorrect flicks, then Zohan would be right up your alley, where no orifice is sacred.

So has Sandler sunk to a new low? Perhaps not, but I think he's in need of a boost to his career, which seemed to have stagnated with fairly plain comedic flicks such as The Longest Yard and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and even Click, perhaps being loaded with a tad bit of drama and feel good messages. And it doesn't really help when personally I still think that Spanglish was his best non-comedic work which stuck to me, for some reason. He tries to reinvent himself, but I feel he's still quite a distance away from peers like Mike Myers who comes up with crazy characters every now and then (am looking forward to the troubled and controversial Love Guru), and even Sacha Baron Cohen (whom I'm looking forward to his Bruno).

Here, Sandler's Zohan relies on both his amazing prowess to bring down the bad guys, as well as his oversized crotch to seduce plus sized and elderly women who come visit him for a haircut, and extra special services he dishes out. Granted they bring on the laughs, and there were some really genuine funny moments to compensate for some expected laughs on the horizon. But aside from that, the story's pretty much lost its direction after the mid-way point, where it couldn't decide whether to be an all out romance flick, with Zohan getting stiff for his salon owner Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), or to focus on the aged old dispute between the two cultures where fellow immigrants and enemies find out his true identity, and revive their aged old feud in a foreign land. There were some bewildering scenes that seemed to have, like the mentioned threads, been abandoned halfway, for example, with the rallying of troops to the game of Hacky Sack.

Nonetheless, what's an Adam Sandler movie without the list of cameo appearances to spice things up? Here you get Rob Schneider who makes regular cameo or supporting character appearances in a Sandler movie, together with Chris Rock, Mariah Carey who hams up her Diva status, Kevin James his co-star from Chuck and Larry, and even George Takei, whom I thought was a strange cameo given that he just came out of the closet recently, and gets himself involved in a somewhat homophobic scene.

You Don't Mess With The Zohan doesn't always hit the mark, but it surely has enough moments in its close to 2 hour runtime to make it worthwhile to sit through and enjoy. Only if you prefer your comedy to be politically incorrect, of course.

P.S. Am just wondering how many will emulate that crazy accented "Nononono".

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