June 19, 2008

Don't Miss the Zohan

If you’ve seen the trailer for Adam Sandler’s new movie You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, it may be tempting to write it off as yet another low-brow comedy aimed at fifteen-year-old boys and best avoided by everyone else. But wait. After Hollywood’s recent spate of dour axe-grinding films about Iraq, a fun movie featuring an Israeli counter-terrorist as the protagonist is a refreshing change, even if it is no more serious or realistic than a cartoon.

Sandler plays Zohan, an elite Israel Defense Forces commando who feels no pain, can do push ups with no hands, and can catch bullets fired at him in his nostrils. He’s a superhero, basically, and his oddly likable Palestinian nemesis (“the Phantom,” played by John Turturro) is an equally indestructible comic book arch-villain who also feels no pain and can defy gravity. Zohan’s trouble is that he’s tired of chasing bad guys, even though he’s very good at it. He would rather live in the United States and work in a hair salon. So he fakes his own death and smuggles himself to New York to get away from it all and live the American dream. There’d be no movie, though, if it were that easy. Zohan is spotted by a Palestinian taxi driver, and buffoonish Arab terrorist wannabes plot to take down the Zohan at his place of employment.

The film’s lead actor and co-author is a Republican, but of the Rudy Giuliani-supporting “South Park Republican” variety. Andrew Sullivan coined the phrase after South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker outed themselves as irreverent anti-leftists a few years ago. Matt Stone is a registered Republican, and Trey Parker famously said “I hate conservatives, but I really f***ing hate liberals.”

This, then, is no Mel Gibson movie. Gibson’s politics, in fact, are swiped at in this movie. No cultural conservative could possibly have written You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Sandler’s character becomes the most sought-after hairdresser in New York City because he joyfully includes sexual favors for senior citizens as part of his salon service package. At no point in the film is there even the slightest suggestion that there’s anything wrong with promiscuous sex or brazen prostitution.

There’s a seriousness, though, beneath the surface of what is otherwise a ridiculous and crude cartoon with live actors. Israelis are portrayed as the good guys, which is not exactly what might be expected from Hollywood these days. Jokes are made at their expense, but the humor is not politically charged. Zohan brushes his teeth with hummus, for instance. His dad stirs it in his coffee.

Read the rest at COMMENTARY Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 19, 2008 11:03 AM

My husband and I watched it two weekends ago. The trailer looked silly, RottenTomatoes gave it a 35% thumbs up, so we initially crossed it off the to-watch list. But then we thought about it, and most movie critics on RT are rabid leftists, it had been a while since we had seen an Adam Sandler movie, so we just went and watched it.

I found the first part to be hilarious, but it got pathetic when they were trying to tie in all the ends at the end:

The real enemies are the rednecks, whereas Palestinian terrorists are just 'misunderstood'. Israelis and Palestinians must unite and fight the redneck bigots and (don't you forget!) the evil capitalists.


I was very disappointed at how the movie was ruined in the end. It was as if the makers almost felt that they had to cheeze it up, and finish in a politically correct mode.

It would have been much more likable and funny had it stayed on course and finished up strong and unapologetic.

Still, a refreshing treat from Hollywood.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at June 19, 2008 12:17 PM

I was actually offended while watching the movie. As lebanese, we were described as living in deserts, act like herds and have sheiks and care about goats. During the mini soccer game, the lebanese had the jordanian flag. The movie was not even funny. Deliberately false and misleading propaganda.

Posted by: Boulos Author Profile Page at June 19, 2008 5:21 PM

"the Phantom,” played by John Turturro

I was going to ask you if you wanted to go and see this As usual you beat me to it. Ever since I saw the 'Hezbolla hot line' snip on the trailer I was hooked.

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at June 20, 2008 10:47 AM

Looked pretty funny to me. I'll have to check it out. I have to say, I like your idea of a "neo-centrist" alliance. Secular conservatives like me, the younger generation of neocons, who feel more at home with "South Park" politics and supported Rudy Giuliani in the primaries really do feel out of place in the GOP and with the doves in the Democratic party.

Best regards,

E.D. Kain

Posted by: E.D. Kain Author Profile Page at June 20, 2008 10:52 AM

Sean and I tried our best to follow the map from the border to Tuzla

Careful! I hear it's full of snipers, often invisible to the untrained eye.

Posted by: TallDave Author Profile Page at June 25, 2008 5:15 PM
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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