You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language and nudity, although the DVD is unrated.
Length: 113 minutes.
Grade: DFDD=D
Budget: $90 million
Box Office: $211 million (100 U.S., 100 Intl., 11 DVD)

Written by: Adam Sandler (Little Nicky, Eight Crazy Nights, Big Daddy, Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and the Hannukah song), Robert Smigel (of SNL), and Judd Apatow (Pineapple Express, Walk Hard, Knocked Up, Fun with Dick and Jane, and the 40 Year Old Virgin.)
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Benchwarmers, Saving Silverman, Big Daddy, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Happy Gilmore)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Emmanuelle Chiriqui, John Turturro, Nick Swardson, and Rob Schneider, with cameos from Chris Rock, Mariah Carey, John McEnroe, George Takei, and Henry Winkler.

After years as the most heroic Israeli commando in history, hyper-sexual Zohan decides to fake his own death and move to America to make it big as a hair stylist. Changing his name to Scrappy, He winds working for a Palestinian beauty in a small shop and eventually falling in love with her. But his past follows him, and he must once again confront his nemesis, the Phantom.

Entertainment Value: D
Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel, and Dennis Dugan. What more do I need to say? I actually had the ridiculous gullibility to hope that this might be a return to the funny days of Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore, e.g.) based on the ad, but I was wrong. The opening five to ten minutes is funny, but the rest is somewhere between stupid and raunchy, and I wouldn’t want to have to pick between them in a contest. I’m worried about a world where this movie makes $211 million. Are you serious?

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity F, Violence C, Language C, Illegality D
The ongoing theme of this movie is that Zohan will have sex with anyone, especially the old women who come to get their hair done by him. There isn’t any actual nudity, other than some back nudity of Sandler, but there are endless suggestive scenes with him gyrating on his clients and more. Trust me when I tell you it’s an F for sexuality even though there’s no nudity. I can’t believe this unrated DVD was PG-13 in any form it could conceivably been released in the theaters in. It’s the classic MPAA problem of grading on superficial markers without considering the real substance of the vulgarity.

Significant Content: D
The theme they hope you’ll take from this is that peaceful non-resistance and working together is the key to peace in the Middle East, but seriously, Adam Sandler is going to preach foreign relations? The other good theme here is that once Zohan finds a woman to really love, no other woman even interests him sexually. But should this be the new test? Have sex with anything that moves until you find you can’t except with one person? Even though it’s superficial content, the dominant theme of sexual permissiveness here cannot be understated. Otherwise, the real lesson here is that vulgar comedians can make a lot of money. Oh, yeah, and terrorists are people, too.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Haven’t I sort of already explained all of this already? One thing I noticed was a thousand jokes I didn’t quite get because they are presumably inside humor about the Middle East. That’s fine for an audience of such folks, but the rest of us just watch in bewilderment.

Discussion Questions:
~Do you think this movie is an effective ad for passive resistance and cooperation with your enemies? How does Zohan’s seeming immunity to being harmed make it possible for him to endure the attacks against him? Is that invulnerability shared by the ordinary sufferers of violence and terrorism?
~How much did the use of inside jokes you didn’t understand affect your enjoyment of this movie? What lessons could you draw from this?
~Are the ethnic jokes in this movie funny or offensive? How does the presence of Sandler and Turturro in the movie make them more acceptable?
~To what degree is it useful to make jokes about the Middle East? Can you see this movie functioning to bring Arabs and Jews together?
~Is Zohan a hero?
~Do you think it’s correct to say that when you find the love of your life, your interest in all other people will disappear permanently?

Overall Grade: D
Don’t do it. You’ll be sorry if you do. Don’t let the clever ads mislead you. Most of the funniest parts are in the ads.

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