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YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN
Fully Loaded Extended Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, Lainie Kazan, Rob Schneider
Director: Dennis Dugan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: October 7, 2008

“I’ve seen this. I’ve done this. You don’t want this.”

Film ***

It’s been a while since an Adam Sandler comedy made me laugh hysterically from beginning to end, with the exception of the remake of The Longest Yard. The last few Sandler comedies left a bad taste in my mouth, mainly because the comedy got overshadowed by a depressing amount of sappiness (Click) or hypocritical preaching (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry). But with You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Sandler has delivered his best comedy in years, and one that deserves a place alongside his early comedy classics like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison.

And though on the surface it may appear like another high concept comedy from the Sandler factory, Zohan manages to add in some nice surprises along with the laughs. For one thing, the movie carries a surprising mix of intellectual comedy and satire. Also, the movie has a number of action sequences that are so well done, you’d swear you were watching a James Bond movie.

The movie, penned by Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow, turns out to be an entertaining action comedy that cleverly satirizes Middle East culture. What may surprise viewers is that the satire is not done in an offensive manner. And it actually earns its social commentary late in the movie, which for once is not pounded into the viewer’s head.

And Sandler himself crafts what just might be his best comedy character to date with The Zohan, the most lethal counterterrorist in the Israeli army. Skilled with combat and maneuvering techniques that would make both Daredevil and Spiderman weep with jealousy, he is assigned to take down the Israeli’s top nemesis, The Phantom (John Turturro). But deep down, he possesses a hidden desire.

Sick of all the fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians, Zohan wants to leave the army and become the best hair stylist in the world. While in pursuit of The Phantom, Zohan manages to fake his death so he can flee his country and live his dream. He then sneaks on board a plane headed for New York City, where he plans to get a job working for, who else, Paul Mitchell.

Donning a new hairstyle and a new alias, Scrappy Coco, Zohan finds it difficult finding a job at the desired hair salon. But he soon lands a job working for a beautiful stylist named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who happens to be Palestinian. Before long, Zohan/Scrappy becomes awfully popular with local customers, most of them elderly women who find him incredibly seductive.

But Zohan manages to attract several enemies in the process. It turns out The Phantom has made his mark in The Big Apple a chain of fast food restaurants (Phantom Muchentuchen). And a Palestinian cab driver (Rob Schneider), claiming to have been wronged by Zohan in the past, plots a deadly revenge scheme. And if that wasn’t enough, we have Michael Buffer (Mr. Let’s Get Ready to RUMBLLLLLLLLLE!!!!!) playing a greedy land-grabbing tycoon and Dave Matthews as a redneck terrorist, a profession that just flat out terrifies me.

Of course, this whole plot is ridiculous…and that’s entirely the point, as in the tradition of the best Adam Sandler comedies. But I’ve have to admit, the satirical jokes aimed at Middle East culture had me rolling on the floor, such as the notion that the only businesses where Israeli immigrants seem to work are electronic outlets with names like Everything Must Go and Going Out of Business. And the way the film works in its subtle social commentary, illustrating that the Israelis and Palestinians should stop fighting and work together now that both races have made it to America, is simply pitch-perfect.

Sandler is in pure comic form as the Zohan, a character that he really disappears into thanks to a very convincing Israeli accent. But the biggest surprise to come out of the movie is the fact that Rob Schneider, who seems to have a guaranteed appearance in every Sandler comedy, isn’t the least bit annoying and is actually quite funny. Schneider is considered by many to be the comedy kiss of death, but here he doesn’t seem like he’s being force fed to the audience, and is given time to play a complete role for once.

I honestly find You Don’t Mess With the Zohan to be a blast of explosive hilarity not just for Adam Sandler fans, but even those who haven’t quite warmed up to his comedies. If you’re like me and had enough of the super-sappy qualities that plagued his last several comedies, then this will definitely be a treat. It’s a ridiculous and energetic farce, and one of the funnier films I’ve seen this year.

BONUS: There are also cameos from the likes of Chris Rock, Henry Winkler, Kevin Nealon, John McEnroe, Kevin James, George Takei and Mariah Carey.

Video ****

The anamorphic presentation from Sony is spectacular from start to finish. The image is thoroughly clear and crisp, with top-notch detail and color appearance. Not a single flaw detected in the presentation, as both daytime and nighttime scenes get remarkable treatment.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix was a most incredible surprise. The movie delivered more action scenes than I expected, and they really showed off in the presentation. Music is in nearly every scene of the movie, many of them pop/dance tracks that get the bass going at a superb level. Dialogue delivery is of top-notch quality and well balanced with music and background noise.

Features ****

This 2-Disc Unrated Fully Loaded Edition release from Sony is one of the better extras package I’ve seen on any DVD release this year, and it contains exclusive extras that can’t be found on the single disc release. Disc One starts off with two commentary tracks; one with Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel and Nick Swardson, the second one with director Dennis Dugan. We also get 10 Behind the Scenes featurettes, including “Look Who Stopped By”, “Dugan: The Hands-On Director”, “The Stunts of Zohan”, “Dugan Espanol?”, “Zohan vs. Phantom”, “Shooting Baja for Tel Aviv”, “All American Redneck”, “From Guns to Scissors”, “The Robot” and “Laughing is Contagious”.

Disc Two includes 5 additional featurettes; “Zohan's Doubles”, “News on 3: Missing Goat”,News on 3: Who is the Zohan?”,News on 3: It's Very Good” andGetting Sticky”. Also included are Bonus Previews for additional Sony releases and a bonus Digital Copy of the movie.

Summary:

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is a phenomenally goofy comedy extravaganza. Adam Sandler shows off his funny chops in what his easily his funniest film in quite some time. It balances comedy, action, hair styling, redneck terrorism, social commentary and extreme ridiculousness perfectly!

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