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Vol. LXII, No. 24
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

HE FLIES THROUGH THE AIR WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE: Ex Mossad spy Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) now known as Scrappy Coco, finds himself in a strange situation in his new job as an apprentice in a beauty salon in New York City.

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan: Adam Sandler Takes on Terrorism in Raunchy Comedy

Kam Williams

Although Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) is the best counterterrorism commando in the Israeli Mossad, the national hero doesn’t see himself as a career spy. Instead, he dreams of the day when his services will no longer be needed so that he will be free to emigrate to America to open a beauty salon.

However, such a move would disappoint his parents (Dina Doron and Shelley Berman) because his father, a fervently patriotic Israeli who served in the ’67 war when Israel defeated seven invading Arab neighboring countries in six days, would think that Zohan was being disloyal to his homeland. Also, his parents think that all hairdressers are gay, and they are afraid their son will become a “fagela” (Yiddish for a homosexual person).

Nonetheless, Zohan is ready to quit when he is ordered to track down the Phantom (John Turturro), a Palestinian terrorist he’d already captured once. The terrorist was recently released from the Israeli prison as part of a prisoner exchange and is now back on the streets and up to his old tricks.

Seeing no end in sight to the never ending Arab-Israeli conflict, Zohan fakes his own death and disappears, resurfacing in New York City under the alias Scrappy Coco. There, he applies for a job as a stylist at a leading salon, but is turned down because he has had no experience.

Willing to work his way up, Scrappy settles for a position sweeping the floor at a fledgling beauty parlor owned by Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a Palestinian who has no idea that her new employee is a former Mossad agent. Meanwhile, Zohan, who passes himself off as half-Australian/half-Tibetan, is equally unaware that his boss’s brother, Fat-tush, is none other than his militant Muslim nemesis, the Phantom.

So, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and everything comes to a head in a big showdown. In the interim, Scrappy takes advantage of any opportunity to make his mark on Manhattan by behaving in the sort of sophomoric fashion we’ve come to expect of Adam Sandler. We have to endure an annoying Israeli accent while seeing such antics as Scrappy brushing his teeth with hummus, playing hacky sack with a live cat, and making love to his landlady (Lainie Kazan) in front of her mortified son (Nick Swardson).

Directed by Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore), You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is a throwback to the sloppily edited material which first made Sandler famous. This bawdy insult to one’s intelligence is only likely to resonate with those Sandler fans who are nostalgic for his earlier films that had a similar crude locker room type of humor.

Thoroughly wasted are the efforts of a supporting cast topped by Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, and boxing emcee Michael Buffer, along with cameos by Chris Rock, John McEnroe, Kevin James, Henry Winkler, Talia Shire, George Takei, Mariah Carey, Bruce Vilanch, and Dave Matthews.

In order to fit in all of these extraneous characters, the film becomes over plotted, resulting in sidebars that are hard to keep track of, especially in a comedy that is going more for the crass joke than a coherent storyline. It seems that the aim here is to elicit laughs via generous helpings of homophobia, misogyny, animal cruelty, bodily function slapstick, and ethnic stereotyping.

Can anybody explain to me how a movie this raunchy earned a PG-13 rating?

Fair (1 star). Rated PG-13 for nudity, profanity, graphic sexuality, and crude humor. Running time: 113 minutes. Studio: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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