OK, you think, going in. This has potential.
You don’t say so out loud, God knows, because surely your friends or spouse would shame you. Secretly, though, you’ve been wanting to see this one. It has a concept — groin-centered Israeli super-commando gives up pursuing Arab terrorists to pursue Manhattan hairstyling career instead — that only Adam Sandler might pull off (which is not to say redeem). It has John Turturro for a villain, and frequent Sandler collaborator Dennis Dugan for a director — who, you figure, will dispatch it with the requisite silly ethnic-humor accents, bottom-grade political farce, and nostalgia for all those cultural tropes that were prominent at the time Sandler’s adolescence got stunted. It even has the imprimatur of Judd Apatow, who co-wrote, with Sandler and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog originator Robert Smigel.
All of this, yes, it has, and yet you come out feeling unsatisfied. You should have known: You Don’t Expect Much from the Zohan.
Arguably, neither do his parents, who laud their son’s pragmatic professional accomplishments but figure his dream is frivolous.
“You’re too old to take a risk,” mom says. “Stay in the army. Play it safe.”
“You’re like Rembrandt with a grenade,” adds dad.
Not to mention a hacky sack. And there’s no denying what a badass he is in those cut-off jeans. But Zohan doesn’t want to be a part of perpetual violence anymore. He wants to make a world without hate, where heads don’t get hot; they get silky smooth.
So Zohan follows his heart to New York, where he pines for Paul Mitchell but settles for a starter gig at a neighborhood salon. Before long his styling services are in demand; he has a way with older ladies, mostly by having his way with them.
One complication: The neighborhood is Palestinian, and so’s the comely young love interest who runs the salon (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Another complication: A spiteful Arab cab driver recognizes Zohan from the life he left behind, and, worse, is played by Rob Schneider.
Will it all work out?
Better question: Would anything have improved this movie? More time in the oven, maybe. Less time on the screen, definitely. It’s the usual complaint about big-screen offerings from Saturday Night Live alumni, even if they have become thriving cottage industries unto themselves.
Also, there’s the matter of stupidness. If You Don’t Mess With the Zohan must insist on feature length, why can it not manage to be more aggressively, consistently stupid? Seriously. The wait’s just too long for that ejaculating fire hose full of hummus. For critics, there’s solace: We Don’t Pay Money to See the Zohan. But what about the disappointed rest of you?