An army hero wearing Mariah Carey t-shirts? Yes. Yes. Yes.
I'll admit it: I did not go into You Don't Mess with the Zohan with the highest of expectations. It's not that I don't like Adam Sandler movies; as surprising as it is, even though I'm more of an indie film person, I think his stuff is pretty funny. But somehow the trailer just didn't light me on fire, and I figured this one was going to be more Little Nicky than Billy Madison.
Luckily I was wrong.
You Don't Mess with the Zohan is classic Sandler broad comedy. This time, Sandler plays Zohan Dvir, the baddest of bad-ass Israeli counter-terrorism agents, so famous for his indestructibility that he is known throughout the Middle East simply as 'The Zohan.' But even if he can take out 10 Palestinians with the flick of his foot and make balloon animals out of the rocks the Arab children throw at him, Zohan longs to live in a world without war. So when he sees his chance, he fakes his own death at the hands of his arch nemesis, the Palestinian terrorist called The Phantom (played awesomely, of course, by the always colorful John Turturro) so that he can stow away in the cargo hold on a flight to New York where he dreams of becoming a hair stylist for Paul Mitchell.
Of course, when he gets to New York, Zohan's dreams of making the world 'silky smooth' aren't as easily accomplished as a man of his stature would expect. He is laughed out of the Paul Mitchell salon and can only find work at the run-down salon on the Arab side of the street. Can Zohan make peace with his enemies to live out his dream? Will his secret identity be discovered? Can he do haircuts beyond the 1987 Paul Mitchell hair book?
As is typical of Sandler's comedies, the story and plot are very predictable and somewhat simplistic. But that's not what his movies are about -- they're about the jokes, and with Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) and Robert Smigel (a.k.a. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) writing it with him, this one is funny. Zohan's indestructibility is perfectly outlandish, and his love of hummus is only rivaled by his love of seducing even the oldest and ugliest of women.
The thing about it is, though, that not only are these things funny just on face level -- they certainly are -- but the character of Zohan is rooted in so much truth that if you know anything about Israeli culture you will literally be screaming with laughter. The character is, dare I say, brilliant. Zohan as the uber-Israeli; his remarkably laid-back attitude, his unshakeable confidence, his legendary bad-assed-ness, his absolutely insane driving, and especially his unwavering love of all women is, frankly, dead-on. Even Sandler's accent is perfect.
As a result, Zohan is funny for everyone -- those who just think he is clowning around, and those who get the in-jokes. It is also full of delightful cameos -- from Sandler's SNL cohorts and others -- that give repeated moments of joy when you see them. In short, it's fun and funny, and a great start to the summer. It will leave you feeling silky-smooth all over.