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Overall Rating
2.03

Awesome: 3.13%
Worth A Look: 6.25%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 21.88%
Total Crap43.75%

3 reviews, 14 user ratings



You Don't Mess with the Zohan
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Actually, It Appears That You Can Mess With The Zohan."
1 stars

Due to circumstances far beyond my control--more about them in a minute--I have only seen about 20 minutes of the new Adam Sandler comedy “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” Seeing as how that means that I have only viewed roughly one-sixth of a film with an official running time of 113 minutes, it might seem to some of you that I have not watched enough of it to render anything remotely resembling a coherent viewpoint. And yet, I feel perfectly comfortable in writing this up because while I only saw the first reel, it was so jam-packed with stupid jokes, annoying overacting, tiresome stereotypes and substandard cinematic technique that I cannot imagine any situation in which it could have developed into anything but longer. In fact, the film could have changed into “Punch Drunk Love” for the next 90 minutes and I would still be forced to pan it because not even the visual and emotional glories of that modern masterpiece would have been enough to off-set the sheer obnoxiousness on display in only the first portion of this one.

At this point, I suppose that I should explain why it came to pass that I only saw the first 20 minutes and nothing else. You see, Sony and their local publicity representatives decided that while certain critics in the Chicago area were enlightened enough to see the film last week, it was decided by someone that any critic in the area with even the most tenuous link to this Internet fad would have to make do with a showing two nights before its opening at the 600 N. Michigan theater, a multiplex that, to put it kindly, has seen better days, a fact that is hardly a secret in these parts. One of the chief bugaboos with the place is that many of the sound systems in the various auditoriums are in dire need of repair and true to form, once the film finally started the audio was muddy and distorted. (Of course, I am assuming that it was muddy and distorted--if it turns out that director Dennis Dugan had actually created a unique soundscape meant to suggest what it would be like to experience the film through Pete Townsend’s ears, I guess that I owe someone an apology.) Happily, this was eventually sorted out and the film went along for another fifteen minutes or so until the sound began to drop out again. However, before anyone could complain, the visual portion of the film decided that if the soundtrack didn’t have to pull its weight, it shouldn’t have to either and the film froze as it apparently jammed up in the projector and then literally melted before our eyes.

For the next few minutes, you could hear the film still flapping about and detect the vague scent of melting celluloid, two sure signs that there was nobody manning the projection booth. Finally, the noise stopped and after a few minutes, someone came out, announced that there was a problem and that it would be rectified in about 10-15 minutes. As a veteran moviegoer, I know full well that when you have a situation in which the film is literally burning up in the projector--a new print, mind you, and not a beat-up old thing on its last legs--it might take 10-15 minutes to fix the problem if you have a crack projectionist on hand and this was clearly not the case here. Sure enough, after the fifteen minutes had passed, someone came out again and thanked us for our patience while shyly admitting that it might actually take a few more minutes after all. At this point, the interruption had lasted almost as long as the film and when it dawned on me that the mishap-related downtime had actually provided more genuine entertainment value than the film proper and that we hadn‘t even gotten to the requisite appearances from Rob Schneider or Nick Swardson, I decided to simply give up and go home to catch the Cubs game. I would have informed one of the two local publicity reps that I was leaving but it appeared that they took off once the movie began, no doubt to drink deeply and lustily from the chalice that is Life in ways that didn’t involve sitting through an Adam Sandler movie so shabby that it makes “Little Nicky” look like fricking “Zodiac” by comparison. (If I had to offer up a theory as to what happened, I suspect that the entire thing was an act of deliberate sabotage performed by contemporary King of Comedy Judd Apatow in the hopes of somehow disguising the fact that he has a credit for co-writing the screenplay.)

In the film, Sandler stars as Zohan, an Israeli secret agent with the kind of jaw-dropping skill sets that suggest what might have resulted if Bugs Bunny had been one of the stars of “Munich.” From what I saw, I can tell you that Zohan likes to walk around in short-shorts and less (much less), he has enormous genitals, he enjoys putting hummus on everything that he eats and that he isn’t gay. Although an extraordinarily gifted warrior, Zohan is weary of the constant warfare and harbors a secret dream of going to America and pursuing a career as a hair stylist. When his mortal enemy, an Arab terrorist known as The Phantom (John Turturro), returns to town even though he was arrested just three months earlier (it seems that he was traded by the Israeli government to the Arabs for a spy to be named later, chuckle, chuckle), Zohan decides that he has had enough and during a hellacious battle--during which he catches bullets in his teeth and nostrils and plays ping-pong with a live grenade--he fakes his death and begins to make his way to America. For some reason, his trip involves him flying in the baggage hold inside a giant dog cage with a couple of mutts. It was at this point that the film shut itself down and left audience members to ask themselves such questions as “How can Zohan be considered a good secret agent if everyone in Israel seems to know who he is?,” “Why is it supposed to be funny that all the characters put hummus in or on everything that they consume, including candy bars, fried chicken, coffee and even a pair of eyeglasses?,” “Is Sandler going to keep up that grating fake voice for the entire film?” and “Is there any way I can get a refund for this even though I technically didn’t pay for a ticket?”

I will admit at this point that for the most part, I have never exactly been a fan of Adam Sandler’s determinedly crude and idiotic comedies (though I will admit that when he is working with more intelligent and serious-minded material, as he did with “Punch Drunk Love,” “Spanglish” and “Reign Over Me,” he has proved himself to be admirably up to the challenge) but even by those low standards, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” comes up pitifully short. (Yes, even shorter than the likes of “Click” or “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.”) For starters, there is the inescapable fact that Arab-Israeli tensions simply aren’t that funny and that while it is possible that a smart and hilarious comedy could be inspired by such a thing, it probably is not likely to crop up in un film de Richie Brockleman. Any hopes of it actually transforming into a dark and corrosive satire in the mode of a classic like “Dr Strangelove” or such intriguing current works as “Southland Tales” or “War Inc” are pretty much dissipated in the first few minutes when we get inexplicable close-ups of our hero catching both a Hacky Sack and an entire barbecued fish between his butt cheeks.

For a moment, I was tempted to compare the results more to something like the recent Uwe Boll abomination “Postal” but while the film doesn’t quite sink to those unspeakable depths, the artistic gulf between the two is not as wide as one might hope--at least Boll’s film opened with a scene (two of the 9/11 terrorists are flying towards the World Trade Center when they discover that the number of virgins promised to them in the afterlife has changed drastically from the original estimates) that had a comedic premise that I could understand and recognize, even though it wasn’t actually funny by even the loosest dictionary definition of the word. Here, the goings-on are so scattershot and poorly planned out that you get the sense that Sandler and his buddies pitched the premise to the executives at Sony as a joke and were then forced to slap something together when the studio actually decided that it was worth investing untold millions into. Of course, outside of Sandler’s presumably enormous asking price, the money spent was nowhere to be seen in the portion that I saw--the opening reel is such a mess that it feels more like a rough first assemblage of footage than a final cut that anyone, even Dennis Dugan, would want to sign off on.

Look, I am not proud that I decided not to stick out what promised to be an endless series of projection-related problems in order to offer you a full review of “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” In fact, once my annoyance towards this botched screening fades away, I may even try to sit through the whole thing again sometime down the road and if that happens, I will be sure to either write a new piece or add my thoughts to this one. However, based on what I did manage to see, I can say that the first reel of the film is a stupid and sloppy mess that is a near-total abdication of the implicit promise on the part of the filmmakers to provide audiences with some form of actual entertainment in exchange for their ticket money. As for the projection snafus--well, I guess that it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving movie.

POSTSCRIPT #1: From my colleague Brian Tallerico, who was also at the screening and whose stuff can be seen at www.thedeadbolt.com , I learn that the film did eventually start up again a few minutes after I left and while the print didn’t wind up burning again, half of the audio apparently dropped out about an hour later and it remained that way for the next 20 minutes or so. If I were Adam Sandler or Dennis Dugan, I would be on the phone with Sony demanding to know why my film was allowed to be screened in such a slipshod manner, especially at a word-of-mouth screening designed to get people to recommend it to their friends. POSTSCRIPT #2: By the way, the Cubs wound up losing to the vile and hateful San Diego Padres by a score of 2-1, abruptly ending their nine-game winning streak. In other words, the night was a double disaster.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17094&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/06/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

2/19/13 the truth my ---hole hurts. Dr. Lao, are you from Bizzarro-Earth? 1 stars
7/03/11 art yet anotherAdam Sandler Vehicle!,Boring,Boring,Boring! 1 stars
6/02/09 aliceinwonderland WTF? 1 stars
4/29/09 Dr.Lao I never thought I would laugh at an Adam Sandler movie 4 stars
11/30/08 Samantha Pruitt sunny story, some great scenes, laughed a couple of times. 3 stars
11/02/08 Abhishek Chakraborty Dodged a bullet not going to see this at the movies and paying heaps for this pile of shit 1 stars
11/02/08 The Dork Knight Didn't laugh once. 2 stars
10/08/08 Jon G A fun movie to watch 4 stars
9/06/08 Donna woods Adam Sandler is my fave comedy actor but this film sucks 1 stars
7/29/08 mike hilarious movie! lighten up people 5 stars
7/16/08 Michelle Cullen Too vulgur too enjoy the half-witted attempt at commedy. A sad sorry effort. 1 stars
7/05/08 Anthony Feor Adam Sandler is a funny actor, but not when he is working with a script entitled Zohan. 1 stars
6/30/08 PAUL SHORTT MIND NUMBING JUNK 1 stars
6/29/08 Koitus Some scenes were WAY "over-the-top" - but overall it was a good, ORIGINAL comedy. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Jun-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Oct-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
  19-Jun-2008
  DVD: 07-Oct-2008



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