Sunday, June 8, 2008

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

I love Adam Sandler. The Chanukah Song cracks me up. When he is throttling Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore? Genius. His self-effacing, self-deprecating real life persona? Adorable. So know that I'm a Sandler fan when reading this review. In my mind there are three kinds of Sandler movies: Un-Sandler-like (The Wedding Singer, Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish), Classic Sandler (Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Big Daddy) and Bad Sandler (Anger Management, The Longest Yard).

Even I'm not a fan of Bad Sandler movies. There are some that say all Sandler is bad Sandler. You Don't Mess with the Zohan is not for them. It is Classic Sandler. Juvenile, puerile, low-brow, non-stop silliness. Replete with all the usual suspects: Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, John Turturro and director Dennis Dugan (One reviewer referred to Dugan as "anonymous director Dennis Dugan." Really? You don't remember Richie Brockelman? For shame!) and plenty of slap-stick and stereotypes, You Don't Mess with the Zohan is relentlessly funny. Funnier than Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Funnier than Baby Mama.

There are running gags about hummus, hacky sack and the Middle Eastern love of disco. There are absurd scenes of Sandler as superhero Zohan catching bullets in his bare hands, karate kicks through walls, acrobatics off building roofs. There are pointless cameos: Chris Rock rocking a very bad Jamaican accent, a blink and you'll miss them shot of George Takei and Bruce Vilanch, a completely humorless bit with John McEnroe, and Mariah Carey playing the vapid diva. But it doesn't matter--the movie belongs to Sandler, with some great comic scene stealing by Turturro as the Zohan's arch nemesis Palestinian terrorist, The Phantom. It's raucous and raunchy and, despite some thrashing from the critics, is estimated to make $40 million for its opening weekend. That's not Indiana Jones numbers and it will come in second to the animated Panda movie, but $40 mil is nothing to sneeze at.

I wouldn't be surprised if that estimate was low. I went to the 10 am Sunday showing and was surprised at how many people were there. Of course the place was packed with screaming rugrats for the Panda movie, but I swear the very pregnant woman who came in ten minutes into the movie and left before its end had her kids parked with the Panda while she caught Adam's Mossad turned Sassoon act. Good thing--the Zohan is definitely not suitable for younger kids (Think of Sandler doing an Israeli version of Warren Beatty in Shampoo--that is if Warren's clientèle were Charlotte Rae and Lainie Kazan instead of Lee Grant and Goldie Hawn! You get the picture... ) Speaking of unsuitable, for some odd reason one of the previews played before You Don't Mess with the Zohan was Brideshead Revisisted. Really? SERIOUSLY?!!! What moron thought there was crossover audience from a Sandler movie to the adaptation of an Evelyn Waugh novel?


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