Messing With You Don’t Mess With the Zohan


In a passable Israeli accent, outsize codpiece, and a new and improved bod, Adam Sandler’s Zohan, a Mossad super-heavy, is every Jewish nerd’s dream of self-transformation—until, that is, he has a career crisis and turns up in Manhattan as a would-be hairdresser in an awful ’80s shag who falls for his Arab boss (Emmanuelle Chriqui) while heading off a simmering Israeli-Arab war among the expats in the ‘hood. If nothing else—and there isn’t much else—You Don’t Mess With the Zohan pronounces the Middle East fair game for absurdist comedy. Very loaded comedy—the Palestinians (well, Rob Schneider) are stupid rubes who don’t know their nitroglycerin from their Neosporin. But for a caper whose antic pacing is clearly beamed at mini-mohawked boys and their bravely smiling dates, Zohan comes in a curiously arcane package more likely to induce thigh-slapping among Tel Aviv elders or Jewish-Americans who took their semester abroad in Israel circa 1985. Dennis Dugan directs with his usual heavy hand, but I like Sandler’s trademark combination of shock tactics and sweetness. There’s a crazed good-heartedness to Zohan (renamed Scrappy Coco) as he shtups his elderly-matron clientele. It’s as if Sandler has elected to assemble all the solicitous Jewish mothers he’s ever known and give them a great big Oedipal prezzie just for being who they are.