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You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/7/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/9/2008

If you were to ask people (especially critics) about Adam Sandler, you probably get a lot of different replies. But, how many people would refer to him as driven. Given his laid back nature and the fact that many of his characters are slackers, probably not very many. And yet, ever since his first starring role in Billy Madison, it appears that Sandler is determined to make each subsequent movie weirder than the last. It's almost as if someone has dared him to make the most bizarre movie ever, and he keeps upping the ante. His latest film, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, may be his strangest yet, and it contains plenty of material to scare off a mainstream audience.

Sandler stars in You Don't Mess with the Zohan as Zohan Dvir, an anti-terrorist specialist with the Israeli Army. He's loved throughout the land and respected by everyone for his fighting skills. And yet, all that Zohan really wants is to be a hairstylist. He mentions this to his parents and they make fun of him. While pursuing his arch-enemy, The Phantom (John Turturro), Zohan fakes his own death and flees to America to pursue his dream. He arrives in New York City and begins to look for a job. He befriends an awkward man named Michael (Nick Swardson) and his mother, Gail (Lainie Kazan). He's also recognized by Oori (Ido Mosseri), an Israeli immigrant, who takes him to a street with Israeli and Palestinian businesses. Zohan begs for a job at a beauty parlor run by Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). At first, he's only allowed to clean, but soon he gets his chance to be a sylist and becomes an overnight sensation. Unfortunately, this notoriety draws the attention of cab driver Salim (Rob Schneider), who, seeing that Zohan is alive and well, calls The Phantom.

It would actually be inaccurate to call You Don't Mess with the Zohan Sandler's strangest movie. (We could debate all day about which movie would win that award. After all of these years, I still have to give it to Billy Madison. What was with that penguin?) But, it wouldn't be unfair to say that it may be Sandler's most inaccessible movie.

If you analyze the plot of You Don't Mess with the Zohan it makes sense, and isn't all that different from many movies that we've seen before. Zohan feels that he's stuck in his profession and wants a change. He pursues his dreams and finds that everything isn't what he'd hoped it would be. Therefore, he's forced to re-assess his plan to get what he wants. Sandler and co-writers Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow have simply taken this cliched idea and added some unique ideas to it.

But, they make be too unique. I consider myself to a semi-worldly person and I generally grasp cultural issues in movies, but with You Don't Mess with the Zohan, I felt as if I were watching a foreign movie. There are jokes about Hacky Sack, paddle-ball, Israeli soft drinks, hummus, and disco dancing which went right over my head. Obviously, I can guess that these jokes on playing on Middle Eastern stereotypes, but because I'm not very familiar with that culture, these jokes were lost on me. That wouldn't be a big deal if these jokes were a one-time occurrence, but they persist throughout the movie, which left me bewildered.

Outside of these jokes, there isn't much happening in You Don't Mess with the Zohan. There are a few silly moments which are amusing, and every scene with Nick Swardson is funny, but otherwise, many of the jokes in the movie fall flat. Oddly, there are a few scenes with animal humor which made me laugh out loud. The movie needed more animals. The pacing of the film is also questionable. I don't know if it's Sandler's clout, or the involvement of Judd Apatow, but the moment is way too long. In another movie, we would appreciate that the movie takes its time introducing the characters, but it simply becomes tedious here.

Apparently Adam Sandler has reached a point where he can get any movie made. With some tweaking, You Don't Mess with the Zohan could have been a much better movie. As it stands, it has a very narrow focus, it's far too long, and the humor is often off-base. Let's change the title to simply Don't Mess with the Zohan.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan works a coif on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never too dark or too bright. The detail level is acceptable, but the image is a bit soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the action scenes provide some nice surround sound. The in-film dance music really gets the subwoofer going.

The You Don't Mess with the Zohan DVD contains many special features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Adam Sandler, writer Robert Smigel, Rob Schneider, and Nick Swardson. As one would expect, this is a silly commentary and the group jokes the whole time. But, they also discuss the locations and deleted material, and they often point out who wrote particular jokes. Next, we have an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Dennis Dugan. In contrast to the first talk, Dugan's commentary is somewhat dull. He speaks at length throughout the film, but his lack of enthusiasm wears on the listener. He does stick to a scene specific approach and gives us some anecdotes about the movie. The DVD contains 15 DELETED SCENES, which run about 12 minutes. There are some nicely silly moments here, but nothing which would have improved the movie. The DVD contains 15 (!?) FEATURETTES, which total 86 minutes (?!). These focus on various aspects of the making of the movie, such as cameos, Director Dennis Dugan, stunts, Dugan's adventures in Spanglish, actor John Turturro, turning California into the Middle East, the international cast of co-stars, fake news reports, an interview with a robot (?!), the sexual appeal of Zohan (?!), and finally, a gag reel. These segments are filled with comments from the cast and filmmakers and lots of on-set footage. It's always interesting to see how shy Sandler appears to be in interviews, when he's so boisterous on-screen.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has also brought You Don't Mess with the Zohan to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 19 Mbps. This is an odd transfer, as the image is almost too bright and clear. I can't say that the image was washed-out, because the colors were rich and natural-looking. But, the daytime scenes looked as if we were seeing them through a window on a very sunny day. Is this good or bad? The image shows no grain or defects from the source material. The depth and amount of detail are good as well. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Any crowd scene offers great stereo effects and the constant "disco" music in the movie sounds fine. The music fills the rear speakers and brings forth strong bass effects.

The Blu-ray Disc contains all of the extras found on the 2-disc DVD release, plus "Translating the Zohan", an on-screen feature which supplies defnitions for the words used by the film's characters.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long