Movie Review
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Don't Mess with Zohan poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published May 16, 2008
US Release: June 6, 2008

Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler , Rob Schneider , Emmanuelle Chriqui , Henry Winkler

PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language and nudity.
Running Time: 113 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $100,018,837
B-
28 of 117
For Sandler, Don't Mess with the Zohan is a step in the right direction. This could be a step to something even better.
As the movie opens, we are given the hope that this could be the first good Adam Sandler comedy in ten years. Now let me say that I didnít like the first trailer (the second one is better) and I thought I had written out my mediocre review in my head before I even got into the theater. And when the movie started, I thought, oh wow, am I wrong? Donít Mess with the Zohan starts off being so completely ridiculous and so stupid that itís actually amusingÖand sometimes pretty funny. In the ads, it looked like Sandler was taking too much from Sacha Baron Cohenís Ali G personality, with a mix of John Turturro's "Jesus" character from The Big Lebowski. Itís not the rip-off I thought it might be - Sandler does a pretty good job with this role. And what is his role, exactly? You could say that he plays a Mossad secret agent with superhero capabilities who suddenly determines to become a hair stylist in New York City (I say no more). Is this a good movie? Compared to Chuck & Larry (C), Click (C), Longest Yard (C), 50 First Dates (C+), and Mr. Deeds (C), this is a pretty good movie. In fact, this might win over a few people who are normally annoyed at how bad Sandlerís comedies have been since the days of Billy Madison (B) and Wedding Singer (B) - it makes you think that maybe he can strike back.

You can see the influence of Borat in the physical comedy from the beginning. Sandler bears almost all in the opening sequence, and he has an air of confidence about his sexuality as if he doesn't give a damn about what anyone else might think. We quickly learn that he also has special powers. This leads into a few well-done action sequences in which he turns into a secret agent who can fly (it's pretty damn goofy, but I was amused). We then go to New York City where Sandler's Zohan character puts his superhero powers to use with hair stylizing, which he believes is his ultimate calling.

Believe it or not, this movie has laughs. I was surprised I was enjoying this movie, and was surprised that certain moments made me laugh pretty good. However, that being said, the movie does drag here and there. As much as I was getting ready for a pleasant surprise in the early stretches of the movie (it was looking like a potential B grade), I grew annoyed at times that the movie didnít always keep up the momentum in the pace. My mind wandered a little bit in the second half, but sometimes the weaker segments are broken up by a surprise chuckle or laugh which steers things back on track.

The chuckle rate is surprisingly decent, but there are also gags that donít work or are just way too silly. But for a big movie like this, this is not too bad. At this stage, Sandlerís got a huge audience, and so he kind of has to cater a little bit to kids or those who like slapstick. The movieís got all the ingredients to be big Ė maybe even bigger than The Longest Yard but Iím not sure (the sense of humor is somewhat similar to Borat, which could broaden the appeal to a $50+ mil opening). Zohan is cameo-heavy, and it also plays with just enough crude racial stereotypes and sexual gags to please the immature crowd. This is PG-13, but they do press some buttons with the comedy and itís not bad.

As the finale approached, the beginning seemed like a really long time ago, which is usually an indicator that the movie dragged. There are indeed weak spots, but enough works. For Sandler, Donít Mess with the Zohan is a step in the right direction. This could be a step to something even better. I sure hope so, because I miss the days when Sandler wasnít trying to please the masses through broad slapstick comedy. Ever since The Waterboy (C+), his comedies just havenít been for me - with the exception of Big Daddy (B-) which is pretty decent but I don't really consider that one an all-out comedy like this. Zohan is proof that Sandler could turn around, even if itís by no means great.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #28 of 117 between Religulous (#27) and Role Models (#29) for 2008 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2922 graded movies
A0.4%
B29.6%
C62.0%
D8.1%
F0.0%
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