Right down to its zingers aimed at Mel Gibson's post-DUI anti-Semitic tirade, it's the most explicitly Jewish of Sandler's projects to date--and that includes the Hanukkah bash "Eight Crazy Nights." Last year's Sandler vehicle, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," simultaneously exploited and decried homophobia. Similarly, "Zohan" simultaneously exploits and decries anti-Arab sentiment, right up until the moment we're handed an image of Israeli-Arab solidarity as the warring factions unite against the real enemy. Who is the real enemy? American greed, in the form of a venal real estate developer modeled on Donald Trump, determined to gentrify the living daylights out of post- 9/11 Lower Manhattan.
Sex with the aging female clientele is one thing, but the soft center of "Zohan" is supplied by the cross-cultural romance between Zohan and his salon's Palestinian owner (Emmanuelle Chriqui), not so far away in spirit from the Jew-on-Catholic mash-up of "Abie's Irish Rose" nearly a century earlier. Mainly, the film is a shrill, broad cartoon, heavy on the gross-out and the jokey brutality. Director Dennis Dugan (who hacked his way through "Chuck and Larry") parks the camera and records such sights as Arab and Jew squaring off in a game of ping-pong with a hand grenade. Later, we see a group of fellows playing hacky-sack with a live cat. Later still, there's a deft parody of the "Rocky" training montage, and who would've thought that was possible? Also, Rob Schneider trades his simpering caricature of an Asian-American in "Chuck and Larry" for a rageful Muslim cabbie, desperate to join Hezbollah. Offensive? Of course. I just wish it were funnier: The ideas and some of the individual bits in "Zohan" work, but the crudeness of the execution undermines the results.
See the trailer and find local showtimes for "You Don't Mess With the Zohan."