Thursday, June 5, 2008

You Don't Mess with the Zohan: A true mess

You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008) • View trailer for You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Zero stars (out of five). Rating: PG-13, which is a total crock, for nudity, profanity and unrelenting sexual vulgarity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.5.08
Buy DVD: You Don't Mess with the Zohan • Buy Blu-Ray: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (Unrated + BD Live) [Blu-ray]

Goodness, such a wealth of options...

In his race to the bottom, Adam Sandler has done what I wouldn't have believed conceivable: He has bested Eddie Murphy, Rob Schneider and Will Ferrell.
Having abandoned his career as an Israeli Mossad commando, Zohan Dvir (Adam
Sandler) winds up in New York, embracing his secret passion to become a hair
stylist. Needless to say, his past catches up with him.


Impossible as it sounds, Sandler actually has made the most wretched film of his career. It's almost as if he indulged in a contest with himself, to unleash something even more unspeakably dreadful than Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds.


I should have known that any movie with a substantial speaking appearance by Mariah Carey would be a dog.


You Don't Mess with the Zohan may not be the year's worst movie ... but it'll do until that one comes along.

Let's go with No. 4.

I have no pity for Sandler's fans, who at least know what to expect. But the notion of unwary mainstream patrons across these great United States — even one unsuspecting naïf — innocently paying good money with the expectation of enjoying some goofy slapstick, is enough to make me cringe.

Demanding their money back won't be sufficient compensation. Hell, they should get Columbia pictures to pay them ... and on a sliding scale: an exponentially larger payoff for every additional minute spent enduring this train wreck.

I'd like to think it could be possible to center a comedy around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; humor has a way of bridging even the most entrenched cultural divide. But Zohan is so poisonously tasteless, so unrelentingly vulgar and racist, that I can see it becoming one of the bullet-points in the next peace talks. ("You execute Adam Sandler, and burn every copy of that Godforsaken movie, or we don't even come to the table!")

Its status as an unredeemable turkey aside, Zohan also has the distinction of proving, once and for all, that the idiots who work for the MPAA are just messing with us. I've long felt their ratings were arbitrary and temperamental, but this is ridiculous. They really do indulge big-studio productions while unfairly reserving their "real" scrutiny for indie pictures.

Granted, this tawdry flick doesn't contain any F-bombs or bare breasts — plenty of naked male butts, though — but otherwise it's the most mercilessly vulgar production I've seen in quite awhile ... and yes, I'm even comparing it to what the Farrelly brothers unleash. The notion that this crude trash could skate by with a PG-13 is simply insane. It's not just wincingly awful; it's lose-your-lunch awful.

Director Dennis Dugan should be hauled out with his own trash. Truly, this guy's Directors Guild card should be confiscated in order to protect the rest of us.

Dugan has made a career of teaming up with comedy "stars" already notorious for their uneven cinematic output — Martin Lawrence, Rob Schneider, David Spade and (let us not forget) Sandler — and, after a brief gestation period, birthing an abomination of Nature that represents the most putrid work of their careers.

I'm talking Saving Silverman. National Security. Big Daddy. The Benchwarmers. I defy anybody to sit through even two of them, let alone the entire unholy quartet.

Make that quintet. Zohan is the worst yet.

Why does this clown keep getting money thrown at him?

So, the plot, such as it is:

Sandler stars as Zohan Dvir, an indestructible Israeli Mossad commando who, when not storming Palestinian strongholds single-handedly, spends his days at the beach, followed by scores of nubile babes in teeny bikinis who marvel at his Hacky Sack prowess. Our hero is conceived as a cartoon superhero, able to catch bullets with his nostrils or grill fish with his butt cheeks. (Don't ask.)

(Just in passing, have you ever noticed that the first refuge of the truly talentless — and aging — male star is the reflexive need to surround himself with not just one, not just six, but virtual acres nearly naked babes half his age? Why do women put up with this?)

Zohan is tired of all the fighting. And so, during the next skirmish with his mortal enemy, a Palestinian terrorist dubbed The Phantom (John Turturro), Zohan fakes his own death and sneaks aboard a plane bound for New York, in order to fulfill his dream: to become a hair stylist in the famed Paul Mitchell salon.

Instead, Zohan winds up in an, ah, "more colorful" part of the city, where Israelis and Palestinians co-exist in relative peace. He begs his way into a job at a hair salon run by a gorgeous Palestinian named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and, once given the opportunity, turns the place into a lines-around-the-block sensation.

Because, in addition to treating the elderly female clients like teenage rock stars, he concludes each perm and set with a personal bump-and-grind in the back room. Zohan, you see, is a full-service beautician.

Eventually, having schtupped what seems like the entire senior population of Manhattan, poor Zohan suddenly finds that he cannot perform. Goodness, he realizes; it's because he's actually in l-o-v-e, and with Dalia, no less. And because it's that kind of movie, the darling girl finds his new impotence to be endearing.

Of course she does.

I'm not sure what's more crass: Sandler's mock Israeli accent, or the way he shoves his crotch into the cheeks, armpits and rear ends of every woman — of any age — who strolls through this picture. Good gawd, even the magnificent Lainie Kazan allows herself to be defiled. Repeatedly.

It may sound cheerfully ribald as described here, but trust me: The on-screen execution is grotesque, the pacing leaden and the repetitious attempts at gasping humor life-draining. After what felt like dreary years, I checked a watch and discovered, to my horror, that only 15 minutes had passed ... leaving another 93 to go.

You have no idea how hard this job can be sometimes.

We must assume that Sandler got the movie he desired, since he also co-wrote (with Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow) and co-produced this drivel. The man obviously has no shame.

On the basis of this, I'd also be tempted to insist he has no talent. But I keep remembering Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me and, yes, even The Wedding Singer ... and I wonder, whatever happened to that guy?

It's an enigma.

Meanwhile, it should be an interesting summer. Eddie Murphy has Meet Dave lined up, while Zohan comes packaged with a preview for Will Ferrell's The Step Brothers. Both look dead on arrival, and morbid curiosity — you know, the sort that prompts you to beat your head against the wall, because it feels so good to stop — prompts me to wonder which one of these three clowns will be remembered for having unleashed the summer of 2008's most massive turkey.

I'll say this much: Sandler, and Zohan, will be a tough act to top ... or, rather, bottom.

No comments:

Post a Comment