You Don't Mess with the Zohan (UK - BD)
Marcus sits down with a tub of hummus for Adam Sandler's new comedy feature
Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) is an Israeli Mossad operative whose near superhuman skills in counter-terrorism, ping pong, hacky sack and disco dancing make men want to be like him and women want to be with him. However, Zohan is tired of the constant conflict and dreams of a more fulfilling life, and so while facing his nemesis Phantom (John Turturro), Zohan fakes his own death and travels to America to become a hair stylist. Adopting the name Scrappy Coco, Zohan attempts to find work at one of the big salons, but is ridiculed on account of his outdated eighties hairstyle and fashion sense. Instead, he finds himself at a small salon owned by a beautiful Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), where he graduates from sweeping up hair to full stylist, becoming extremely popular with the mature female clients (chiefly because he services them sexually).
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is a silly movie—ridiculously silly in fact. So silly that it somehow manages to deal with the Israel-Arab conflicts in the Middle East head on without coming off as offensive or even inappropriate (okay, maybe a little inappropriate). However silly is not necessarily a bad thing to say about a comedy. There’s more than enough room for silly in the current climate of successful rom-coms and foul mouthed comedies and I’ve gotta say, Zohan manages to pull off the right balance of silly for me and was a pleasant surprise.
I was a late arrival to the House of Sandler, not really ‘getting’ his brand of humour for the longest of times. I was never the flock who worshiped Billy Madison or recited Happy Gilmore. The Wedding Singer phenomenon left me cold (except the star turn cameo from Steve Buscemi) and same goes for The Waterboy. Big Daddy was an okay Sandler movie that I got on board with, only to step off again with Little Nicky. It wasn’t until Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love that I really took any real notice of Sandler at all. His performance, in what is a vastly underappreciated movie, was just a fantastic vehicle to use Sandler’s angry act to dazzling effect. Shortly after, I caught up with Mr Deed’s, which was the first of Sandler’s comedy work that I actually enjoyed in its entirety, and since then I’ve pretty much liked everything to varying degrees. Never having a problem with Anger Management, having lots of fun with 50 First Dates, thinking Spanglish should have received more love, not getting the backlash to The Longest Yard, thinking Click had an amazing movie hidden away in it, even if it failed to find it and more recently enjoying another fantastic dramatic performance from Sandler in Reign Over Me. I wouldn’t say I was spreading the word of Sandler just yet but I am certainly a convert.
Having yet to see I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (which some tell me is a good place to be) it had been a while since I’d seen Sandler in a movie and it was quite a surprise to see how much of a turn around this character and indeed premise was for him. He’s certainly not been this silly since Little Nicky, but what’s really a nice surprise is the angry guy act has all but vanished. Not once does he throw in his angry voice, in fact he plays Zohan with pretty much no sign of anger, playing more a ‘happy-go-lucky guy oblivious of the pressures around him’ sort of a guy.
The opening five minute or so are just ridiculously feel-good with the silliness coming at you thick and fast. Watching Zohan strut (or disco disco) across the beach, his fans wooed by his skills and just the outright absurdity of it all was just infectious. The use of high energy Euro dance tracks make it feel like more fun and somehow all of this combined just makes Zohan immediately likeable as our main character. Seeing Zohan on his home turf doing what the Zohan does to terrorists is so incredibly mental that it works, and John Turturro makes an entrance so out-there and frankly brilliant, that by the time the set up of giving Zohan reason to go over to the U S of A is established you are totally on board with how silly this movie is going to get.
Now don’t get me wrong, not all of this works. In fact probably only fifty percent of it works in all honesty with a lot of groans and eye rolls as opposed to full on laughter, but the fifty percent that does work is more than enough to let a lot of the misses slide. The ongoing gag with all Middle Easterners using Hummus (the ‘very tasty diarrhoea type stuff’) for pretty much everything, from an alternative to sugar in coffee, toothpaste, hair gel—the list goes on—is brilliant. In fact Zohan’s dad scooping a dollop onto his glasses and eating it mid conversation was probably one of the biggest laughs I had in the movie. The ongoing gag with Zohan openly sleeping with Michael’s (Nick Swardson) mum was another bunch of chuckles that worked to full effect with me and the scene where Zohan and his friend are playing hacky sack with the cat was ridiculous and totally tickled me.
Of course, Zohan isn’t all about the laughs. It’s about romance, Middle Eastern politics and understanding too. The romance comes in the form of the, looking pretty incredible in HD, Emmanuelle Chriqui, who has very little to do except look good. The Politics comes in heavy in the last act with a two-thousand-year-old conflict being resolved out on a New York street between a hairdresser and a wannabe shoe salesmen taking down a redneck and the understanding is well, forced, but has its heart in the right place.
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan won’t be for everyone. Silly humour rarely is, but for me Zohan somehow works despite the weak plot, the fact that the gags arefifty-fifty and despite it following a path that’s been trodden in with many a comedy of weaker as well as stronger calibres. Despite all the odds I had loads of fun with this latest Sandler movie (more than I did with his other movie this year, Bedtime Stories) and whilst I doubt it’s a movie I’d rush back to, I’d happily play a drinking game revolving around taking a shot every time we see a pot of hummus, a Mariah Carey T-shirt or Zohan saying ‘silky smooth’... actually the combination of all three might kill me. So maybe I’ll just go for the hummus count.
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is exactly the Sony movie transfer you’d expect to see on a Sony screen in a Sony shop on a Sony Blu-ray high definition player. For starters and probably most strikingly is the use of colour. It’s an entire spectrum of bold, flashy, warm colours. Pretty much everyone is wearing something bright red, orange, multi patterned or bold in every scene, with backgrounds in scenes all following suit. The hair salon with its brightly coloured walls and styling products all look absolutely incredible. The entire movie is unnaturally colourised and seeing this sort of image on display in a store would draw you to it like a moth to a flame.
However on the flip side of that, because of the totally OTT approach to the colours in the movie, the image is incredibly unnatural. Everyone’s skin tones and textures are ‘silky smooth’, some of the colourful scenes in darker locations, such as the nightclub, look painfully other-worldly and unnatural and because of the onslaught of colour this can sometimes (though admittedly rarely) give scenes a yellow-greenish tint to the overall image.
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is an incredibly clean, bright—and if you’d not picked up on it yet— colourful transfer that any Sony Bravia showreel would be proud of. For a silly little comedy this is incredibly impressive, but for those of you who like your transfers replicating the world you live in rather than a city outside of the Land of Oz, you might be left somewhat unrewarded.
Audio wise, this 5.1 TrueHD track does nothing to impress outside of the pounding beats of the many Euro dance anthems littered around the movie. Audio is clear and everything works nicely within the mix, but being a silly studio comedy movie hardly calls for much in the way of overly impressive sound mixing and is largely unremarkable.
On the surface this disc looks loaded with special features. It really isn’t—at least not in the runtime stakes—other than the commentaries. The first commentary includes Sandler, Rob Schneider, Robert Smigel and Nick Swardson and is quite fun initially, but runs out of steam long before the end. The second one with director Dennis Dugan on his lonesome is laid back and full of long silent moments.
There are a whole bunch of fluff featurettes and I’ll start with the short ones. There’s a batch of spoof news reports called ‘News on 3: Missing Goat’ (02:20), ‘Who is Zohan’ (02:38) and ‘It’s Very Good’ (03:08) all of which are consist of the actors adlibbing to varying success. There’s a spoof audition, ‘The Robot’ (04:11) about a robot, voiced by Sandler and ‘Getting Sticky’ (04.59), which shows lots of half naked girls adlibbing their love of the Zohan and then the cast and crew discussing why it’s so funny that old ladies want to have sex with Zohan. I know, I know, already screaming quality features isn’t it?
Moving on to the more film based stuff, ‘Zohan vs. Phantom’ (04:15) has Sandler and Turturro’s characters on set discussing the history of their battles and ‘All American Redneck’ talks about the casting of Dave Matthews (of Dave Matthews Band fame—a personal favourite of mine), but not really in too much detail other than goofing about on set. Though saying that, every time I hear Dave Matthews say ‘I hate those puppies’ it makes me smile. The last of the short featurettes is ‘Dugan Espano?’ (04:46), which shows the director’s best effort to direct in Spanish whilst filming with a lot of extras in Baja California.
Moving onto the slightly longer features, we have ‘Shooting Baja for Tel Aviv’ (06:52) which is exactly what it says it is, ‘Zohan’s Doubles’ (07:06), which showcases that it took fifteen or so stunt doubles to get all of Zohan’s many skills on screen. ‘Dugan: The Hands on Director’ (07:14) is all about—you guessed it—the director Dennis Dugan (who actually cameoed in the movie as the dancing hobo and ‘Laughing is Contagious’ (06:04) which is a gag reel.
Now onto the meat of the Zohan features package, with the fifteen, yes, fifteen deleted scenes, which all come into a grand total running time of, wait for it... twelve minutes and thirty-four seconds. Wow! They’re mostly not even deleted scenes but extensions and variations of scenes that made the cut. Next up is ‘Look who stopped by (09:16) which highlights the many cameos in the movie including Chris Rock, Mariah Carey and Henry Winkler. ‘The Stunts of Zohan’ get’s a whopping ten minutes and twelve seconds to cover all of the many stunts in the movie and ‘From Guns to Scissors’ (9:07) shows the Palestinian and Israeli actors discussing their many political discussions on set. Which reminds me—Daoud Heidami who played Nasi in the movie was a brilliant goofy sidekick to Rob Schneider and I hope to see him in more things in the future.
So that’s it, well other than the Hancock, Step Brothers, House Bunny and Casino Royale trailers and BD Live. Not exactly in depth and sort of annoying selecting all of the individual selection (play all is available—phew) for what usually amount to no more than ten minutes of on-set filming and a few choice sound bites. It’s a fairly typical set of extras for the genre but none I’d ever consider revisiting.
I’ll say it one more time in case you missed it— You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is silly. It’s not the best comedy of 2008’s offerings, but it’s certainly not the worst either. I enjoyed the hummus out of it on the second viewing and even got a few more giggles squeezed out of me when watching clips on the slightly dull features.
While it’s a comedy that’s easily forgettable after the credits roll, it’s certainly one I enjoyed throughout and is worth two hours of your time on a rental at least. Just bear in mind, it’s very, very silly. ‘Disco, Disco.’
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 19th January 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Audio Description Service English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Italian
Subtitles: Dutch, English, English SDH, Hindi Italian
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, Ido Mossen, Rob Schneider
Length: 117 minutes
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