Don't Mess With The Zohan

Saturday, 10 January 2009 09:12

Adam Sandler stars as Zohan Dvir in this impossibly zany action comedy. The film opens with Zohan operating as an elite Israeli agent combating Palestinian terrorists. Sick of fighting an archetypal “war without end”, Zohan decides to fake his death at the hands of his arch nemesis, The Phantom (John Turturro), and surreptitiously journeys to the USA to start a new life. A new life as a disco-loving hairdresser!

Setting his sights on a job in the prestigious Paul Mitchell salon, Zohan quickly realises that he must first prove himself worthy, by getting a trainee job in a small barber’s shop run by Dahlia, a pretty Palestinian girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui).

Don't Mess with the ZohanActor/Director Dennis Dugan’s film clearly takes its cues from genre staples such as The “Naked Gun” and “Austin Powers” trilogies, with a substantial nod to “Zoolander”. Zohan’s gags come thick and fast, and thankfully a good proportion of them stick. The humour springs from a varied mixture of unsubtle but wide-ranging and endearing racial stereotypes, absurd feats of agility, spontaneous and very camp disco dancing, horrendous fashion and a healthy dollop of outrageous sexual activity!

Critical to the film’s success, Sandler’s wild protagonist is immediately loveable. Sporting a distinctive hair-do and a comically bad Israeli accent, Zohan’s penchant for hummus and loud shirts juxtapose his incredible martial arts and athletic skills, and his untold self-confidence. Ladies love him and his enemies fear him. He is at once horribly unfashionable and unbelievably cool. As with many comedies these days, Zohan’s jokes are sometimes of questionable taste, but on the whole they are presented with such even-handed good humour and enthusiasm that it would be churlish to be too critical of them.

Comedians often use humour as a way of putting a serious point across. In Zohan’s case, the point is clearly that Israelis and Palestinians actually have quite a lot in common, and that if they only realised this, they would appreciate that their differences could probably be resolved by discussion and understanding, rather than further bloodshed. Of course, the movie is primarily a frothy comedy, but that need not deny it meaning. An accompanying featurette on the disc reveals that this fact was evidently not lost on the Israeli and Palestinian actors themselves.

The supporting cast and characters lend the film warmth and credibility. Turturro is superb as the zealous Phantom, proving himself Zohan’s equal both in terms of camp charisma and physical ability (running on ceilings, no less). The curvaceous Chriqui plays things with more subtlety and helps to ground Zohan in a recognisable world. Special mention must also be made of the wonderful array of squealing grannies who queue up for Zohan’s services, hair-dressing and otherwise! There are also some fantastic cameo appearances from the likes of Maria Carey, John McEnroe and George Takei.

The movie is packed with dozens of amazing and amusing stunts. Zohan’s secret agent background means he is capable of feats above and beyond those of a normal person. But, because this is a comedy and not a deadly-serious Bond flick, his abilities verge on the super-human. He can swim as fast as a dolphin (Michael Phelps, watch out!), flatten a crowd of bad-guys in seconds, and catch bullets up his nose!

There are many stand-out scenes, but the most jaw-dropping is one where he seamlessly descends from an immense, multi-storey building by back-flipping off various roofs before landing on a moving vehicle, and tumbling feet-first onto the pavement below. In what must surely be a world record, Sandler had sixteen doubles to help him carry-off these stunts! As many scenes include a stunning variety of acrobatics, martial arts and crazy disco dancing, you can see why.

In technical terms, the film also deserves acclaim, not least in the blending and editing of these doubles to convince the viewer that it really is one man doing all of the stunts. As another of the disc’s featurettes attest, masses of green-screen and wire work was involved, and it has all been expertly composited and choreographed. You know that a man cannot achieve these feats, but your eyes will tell you otherwise! Zohan can swim faster than a jet ski? Yes, indeed. And he can look cool whilst doing it!

This Blu-Ray release is a visual feast, with bright, bold colours and very crisp picture quality. The spellbinding stunts and action scenes really stand out and up to scrutiny. Both the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie are included. Aside from a couple of commentaries and a gag reel, the disc also has a wide selection of light-hearted featurettes covering the production of the movie. Whilst they do not go into huge detail, they do give a flavour of the work that went into it. The cast are just as funny behind the scenes as they are in the movie, and the clip of the director dancing on a crowded street in just his pants has to be seen to be believed!

“You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 19 January 2009, RRP £19.99 and £24.99 respectively, or less from .

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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