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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Don't Mess With the Zohan

This weekend I went to see Don’t Mess with the Zohan and there were times I felt like I was having an acid flashback to my youth. Well, a flashback anyways. The acid part was just acid reflux from listening to Zohan (Adam Sandler; I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry) interact with his oh-so-Jewish parents as they sat at the dinner table, with Mom and Dad kvetching about their son’s decision to change careers.

I grew up in “a family of broken dreams” as my Jewish grandmother referred to it after my mother married a gentile and produced me, that horrid half-breed child whose soul would be the subject of struggle for years to come. Since my mother died only a few years later, my Bubbe took up the challenge of tormenting my Catholic father for possession of my religious upbringing, resulting in my first words being neither “mama” nor “papa” but simply “I’m sorry”, a combined reaction to the early instillation of both Catholic and Jewish guilt.

Obviously, as much as it pains the Catholics to hear it, Jewish guilt inevitably wins out as was proved during a recent visit by my grandparents. They could twist a knife to the heart as easily as either of them could add a schmear to their morning bagel while nonchalantly asking why I had not yet produced a great-grandchild for them. I tried to explain that my ovaries were not involved in that process, a sidestep I hoped would satisfy them. Yeah, like a free kosher buffet in the middle of the Gaza Strip would have brought peace in the Middle East. It was only a matter of time before we devolved into the same one-sided conversation Zohan’s parents have with him when he tells them he wants to give up being an Israeli counter-terrorist and take up hairdressing. “You’re a Faigelah?” exclaims his father (Shelley Berman; tv’s “Boston Legal”) before going on and on and
on. In Zohan’s case, obviously this isn’t the case; in my son’s, not so much. Or, yes, so much. He and his partner, the doctor, live in Paris and are so child-free they don’t even own a turkey baster. (I checked their kitchen drawers the last time I visited.) I wish there was something I could promise my grandparents, I really do. I mean, geez, even Clay Aiken is having a baby, so I’m running out of excuses, but I can’t force the boys to adopt a baby if they don’t want one. As a side note, do you think we’ve already seen Clay’s baby in the movies? I mean, if you examine the photographic evidence to the right, it’s pretty obvious Clay’s lil’ swimmers have been basted before. This has got to be more than mere coincidence.

Anyway, Zohan is a patient man, and he is very nice to his parents, although he does fake his own death, which must have brought gebrenteh tsoores down upon their heads, which isn’t very nice, but it is necessary or there wouldn’t be any story. Zohan pretends a Palestinian terrorist known as The Phantom (John Turturro; Transformers) killed him so he could secretly fly off to America in search of his dream to become a hairstylist at Paul Mitchell’s flagship salon in New York. Unfortunately, the beyotches who work there are just so damned rude to our cuddly Mossad hitman that he leaves dejected, and I found myself wondering why in the world Mitchell would allow his brand to be portrayed as having such a snotty bunch of hairburners working for him. I’ll be damned if I’d ever go there to get my hair cut knowing what a bunch a holes he keeps on staff. I know these are only actors and not the real tress-torturers, but still…
Soon though, Zohan’s luck changes when he helps out a bike messenger who is being threatened
by an irate driver who ended up hitting a truck and blames it on the bike rider. The bike rider, Michael (Nick Swardson; tv’s “Reno 911!”) takes Zohan home for dinner where he meets Michael’s mother, Gail (Lainie Kazan; Beau Jest), a divorcee with an appetite for lovin’ that is even bigger than her ample tuchis, and, believe me, that is plenty big enough for two.

Eventually, Zohan, calling himself ‘Scrappy Coco’, lands himself a job as a sweeper in a gorgeous young Palestinian woman’s beauty shop, where he works his way up and eventually gets his big chance to cut hair. Only he does something a whole lot more than just cut the locks of the elderly women who frequent the salon. He can’t shampoo a head without grinding his shmeckle in the ponem of its owner, if you get my drift, and I know that even the goyem out there reading this do. Not that there’s anything wrong with grinding your shmeckle in someone’s ponem if they want you to. Well, there probably is, but it makes for a very funny bit and before you know it ‘Scrappy’ has lines of senior ladies out the door waiting for his “special” services. It’s also not long though before Zohan realizes that despite all the women who want him there is only one for him and that is his boss Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui; August). The trouble is that she isn’t interested. Or is she?

This is only going to lead to tsoores, and it does when he is recognized by a disgruntled cab driver (Rob Schneider; Big Stan), a foe from the old country who has never forgiven Zohan for taking his goat after the cabbie spit in Zohan’s face. Well, I can’t reveal the whole plot, but you can imagine that with Zohan’s cover blown it is just a matter of time before The Phantom comes seeking revenge, and while Zohan has become the ultimate peacekeeper in the shared Jewish and Palestinian neighborhood, his role there is jeopardized as is the neighborhood itself because of criminal outside sources which will then require the skills of both Zohan and The Phantom to end.

While Don’t Mess With the Zohan isn’t exactly going to surprise with any bombshell performances, it might shock a few with its racy material, including a botched sex scene involving Adam Sandler and Mrs. Garrett, er, um, I mean actress Charlotte Rae, the former Mrs. Garrett of “The Facts of Life”. I couldn’t help but think that Blair and Tootie would be mortified. Natalie and Jo, not so much. They’d probably be in line for a little something-something of their own.

Look for a slew of cameos from friends of Sandler and director Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; The Benchwarmers), including Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock, Dave Matthews, Robert Smigel, John McEnroe, George Takei, and Bruce Vilanch, with a special standout appearance by poor Mariah Carey as herself, dragged unwittingly into the middle of all the action for no good reason.

Sandler is at his comedic best here, back from the serious turn he took in Reign Over
Me. One
thing: small children and the faint of heart consider yourself warned about Lainie Kazan. The veteran singer/actress has definitely put the “plastic” in plastic surgery. She has had so many procedures, and so much Botox, Restylane, and Collagen shot in her face it not only doesn’t move it no longer appears quite human. She has an almost wooden sheen across her way-too-much-made-up face that leaves her with more than a passing resemblance to the puppet Madame, of Waylon & Madame fame. I kept wondering if she had a hand up her butt in every scene.

This is sheer silliness from beginning to end and will have you feeling like you could curl up and dye from laughing so much. Who knew hairdressing could be so funny?

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