I don’t like Adam Sandler films. I have actually got into a fight once (with a minor physical altercation) over the fact that I believe Punch Drunk Love to be rubbish AND a waste of a good track from the Popeye musical. The whole manchild / anger management thing as portrayed by Sandler has done absolutely nothing for me in his ten year career. So why did I see You Don’t Mess With The Zohan? Pure and simply I wanted to see exactly how a Jewish New Yorker would approach a comedy about Israel and Palestine. I have to admit, I expected nothing.
You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is one of Sandler’s silliest films. I’d put it on a par with say Ben Stiller’s Zoolander as to its silliness, considering that at its core we have to accept Sandler himself as the most adept, most skilled Mossad agent of all time. A Mossad agent who deep down wants to be a hairdresser. Already, in the daft premise, Sandler is dealing with the upshot of compulsory military service in Israel. Politically Zohan is not very sophisticated, and does tend to lean towards the “why can’t we be friends” solution to the conflict. But it certainly does not stereotype the Palestinian characters any more than the Israeli characters, and it recognises that the only way any kind of solution will come about if via dialogue. None of this is explicit in the film, nor is the films clear backing for a one state solution, but it is all in there. Along with out and out silliness too.
Because make no mistake, for a silly comedy Sandler has dialed back all his annoying tendencies to play this misguided Bond character. A character trying to escape the thing he is good at (killing) because he doesn’t like doing it. So the hairdressing romance with a Palestinian boutique owner is by rote, but sets up a number of great set pieces. Perhaps I am a hopeless liberal seeing something int his film that isn’t there, but it is actually a very funny film EVEN THOUGH IT HAS ROB SCHNEIDER IN IT (not much luckily). It also has a terrific 80’s soundtrack. Probably here due to massive variation between expectation (I would hate it) and actuality (I rather liked it) but that in itself gave me one of my favourite moviegoing experiences of 2008.