dir. Dennis Dugan
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
dir. Dennis Dugan
Remember the '90s? When Adam Sandler was our everything—when he was king, queen, court jester, landed gentry, sheriff, yeoman, America's sweetheart, and, um, candlestick maker? And Robert Smigel was Secretary of Consistently Making Lindy West Laugh, and Judd Apatow was nobody, yet, not really?
Well, guess what, "comedy professionals!" Those lingering '90s memories are not enough anymore. You can't just signify entertainment with a catchphrase ("silky-smooth") and a goofy accent and Adam Sandler's bare buttocks and expect us to laugh—you have to actually get off the couch, pick the diamonds out of your beard, and write some decent jokes.
The movie I'm talking about, of course, is You Don't Mess with the Zohan, an old-school '90s comedy that Sandler, Smigel, and Apatow (according to the New York Times) have been kicking around for eight years or so. It was shelved after 9/11, then dusted off, and rewritten, and re-rewritten, and over-over-overcooked until there was nothing funny, or interesting, or, even offensive about it. It's not bad enough to be boring. It's just negligible, mediocre, unrepentantly ordinary.
Zohan (Sandler) is a sort of Mossad superhero who, tired of the endless bloodshed in his native land, fakes his own death so he can move to New York, become a hairdresser, and touch old ladies in a sexual way. The film's message is that Arabs and Israelis should go ahead and Just Get Along, seeing as they have similar interests: hacky sack, disco dancing, Mariah Carey, women with huge thighs, electronics, and hummus.
Despite the near-decade of revisions, the movie feels like it was tossed off by three bored rich guys in five minutes: You can practically hear them pausing Soulcalibur III to say, "And they should just put hummus on EVERYTHING! Like, hummus on chocolate. Hummus in coffee! Write that down." And then they laugh. And we don't.