June 4, 2008 by  

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan


You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

In "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," Adam Sandler plays an Israeli Mossad super agent who fakes his own death so he can move to New York City and pursue his dream to become a hairstylist.

Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chiriqui
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”)
Written by: Adam Sandler (“Little Nicky”), Robert Smigel (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)

Adam Sandler is easy to love when he’s doing hilarious things like “The Wedding Singer,” easy to hate when he finds time to star in bombs like “Little Nicky,” and easy to respect when he recognizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to star in films like “Punch-Drunk Love.”

Unfortunately, with his most recent comedic attempt “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” Sandler somehow returns back to the types of movies he was making when he first left “Saturday Night Live” to pursue an acting career. Comedies like “Billy Madison” might have been enough for the most loyal of Sandler’s fans, but when one-joke movies turn into feature-length films, the extremely sporadic laughs can be tiresome after a while.

The same happens in “Zohan,” where Sandler plays an Israeli Mossad super agent who fakes his own death so he can move to New York City and pursue his dream to become a hairstylist. As harebrained of an idea as it sounds, “Zohan” could have worked if it wasn’t for the surprisingly lazy writing combination of Sandler, Robert Smigel (TV’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”), and Hollywood’s hottest comedy commodity Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”).

Like Sandler has done with his Happy Madison Production Company, Apatow seems to always have his friends in mind when making films under his Apatow Productions umbrella. The difference is, while Apatow has a handful of funny buddies like Michael Cera (“Superbad”), Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), and Paul Rudd (“The 40-Year Old Virgin”), Sandler has to settle for names like Rob Schneider (“The Animal”), David Spade (“Joe Dirt”), and “Zohan” director Dennis Dugan, who has helmed three other Sandler catastrophes prior to this one.

Sandler is a true comedic performer, not a screenwriter. That’s why it seemed so destined when Apatow stepped in to co-write “Zohan.” Somewhere in the writing process among friends, however, the trio felt making a comedy about Middle East culture simply needed a few repetitious jokes about hummus, sex with old ladies, and bare butts. Even the talented John Turturro (“The Big Lebowski”), who plays the Zohan’s arch-nemesis known as the Phantom, is wasted and tawdry.

“Zohan” wouldn’t be so bad if it had reared its ugly head to us 15 years ago when Sandler didn’t know any better. However, his and Apatow’s stock is much higher than this. They might be able to prove it when they reunite in 2009 for another comedy, which is currently an untitled work. The good thing with that one is that Apatow is the sole writer and director and has already begun casting his own regulars including wife Leslie Mann and Seth Rogen. As long as Sandler is able to stay in front of the camera and not sneak his way behind, the project is still something to anticipate.

Grade: D-

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