Saturday, July 29, 2017

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Year 9, Day 210 - 7/29/17 - Movie #2,699

BEFORE: This is a last-minute addition to the chain, and as a result I'm moving today's originally scheduled film to Monday, and now I have to shift every other movie forward one slot.  Because I just last week settled on the chain that should get me to Movie #2,800 and the end of the year, any time I add a movie like this, I now have to take one away.  I was going to seek out "Godzilla 1984" to finish off the Halloween chain, now I don't have to.  I know, it was a tough choice, to program another crappy Adam Sandler film or another crappy Godzilla film - but a bird in the hand and all that.

THE PLOT: An Israeli Special Forces Soldier fakes his death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist.

AFTER: I was fully expecting this film to be dumb, which is the main reason I avoided it for so long - but I wasn't necessarily expecting it to be racist and sexist as well, so it really hit a trifecta of badness.  You might expect a film about a hairdresser to be homophobic as well, which it sort of is, just not to the degree of being offensive on those other levels.  The Zohan's parents naturally assume that if he wants to be a hair stylist, then he must be a "fegelah" - but hey, they're from an older generation, so they have outdated ideas about sexual orientation.

Instead, the Zohan is a super-macho Israeli soldier and counter-terrorist, so naturally his arch-enemy is his Palestinian counter-part, known as the Phantom.  It's like Sandler wanted to create a Jewish super-hero of a sort, but then to make it believable, he had to also make him want to be a hairdresser. I realize comedy is often found in juxtaposing different elements, but that doesn't mean that putting two different things together in one character is automatically going to be funny.

The whole opening sequence, with the Zohan on a beach, surrounded by beautiful women, and doing impossible things while playing hacky-sack, then grilling up a fish dinner, I was thinking, "This HAS to be a dream sequence, any moment now the character's going to wake up and he'll be in the Israeli army, probably in some dreaded combat situation."  Nope, we're meant to take the impossible literally here, and this continues for the whole entire picture.  Stunts that are impossible, like catching a bullet in his nose, or swimming so fast that he overtakes a jet-ski, are meant to be taken as seen, which puts too much strain on the suspension of disbelief.  Meanwhile, none of it is funny, like someone forgot that they were supposed to be making a comedy.

Then after faking his own death (that's twice this week for Sandler, does he have some issues we're not aware of?) the Zohan stows away on a plane to New York and tries to get a job at the famous Paul Mitchell hair salon, despite having no experience, other than cutting his own hair.  Because why go to school and study anything when you can just jump right in?  His plans thwarted, he focuses on sweeping up hair in a small salon while waiting for an opportunity to open up.  Eventually it does, and he styles and seduces a long line of older ladies, much like Max Bialystock from "The Producers", and soon the Paul Mitchell salon is begging for him to work there (why he doesn't take this job, I have no idea, because wasn't that his dream?)

There's a germ of a plot idea late in the film, as a real-estate magnate and hotel owner (very Trump-like) funds a group of mock terrorists to bomb the businesses around his hotel, presumably to buy up the land, and plans to blame the nearby Arab and Israeli communities for the damage.  But any semblance of telling a good narrative is buried under a pile of silly stunts, vulgar sex with old ladies and stereotypes about people from the Middle East.  They like hummus!  And they own goats!  And they all drive cabs or work in electronics stores!  Pathetic.

Nothing makes any sense here - why is the hotel owner also the announcer at the hacky sack tournament?  Why is there even a hacky sack tournament in the first place?  And why would Mariah Carey be appearing there?  Where is this neighborhood in Manhattan that's filled with Palestinians? You know what, in the end I don't even care enough to complain about it all, it's that dumb.

Also starring John Turturro (last seen in "Exodus: Gods and Kings"), Emmanuelle Chriqui (last seen in "Cadillac Records"), Nick Swardson (last seen in "The Do-Over"), Lainie Kazan (last seen in "Pixels"), Rob Schneider (last seen in "Around the World in 80 Days"), Ido Mosseri, Dave Matthews (last seen in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry"), Michael Buffer (last seen in "Creed"), Sayed Badreya, Daoud Heidami, Kevin Nealon (last heard in "8 Crazy Nights"), Robert Smigel (also last seen in "The Do-Over"), Dina Doronne, Shelley Berman (last seen in "The Holiday"), Alec Mapa, Ahmed Ahmed, Ben Wise, Rick Gifford, Barry Livingston, with cameos from Charlotte Rae (last seen in "Ricki and the Flash"), Henry Winkler (last seen in "Here Comes the Boom"), Kevin James (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania 2"), Chris Rock (last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Mariah Carey (last heard in "The Lego Batman Movie"), John McEnroe (last seen in "Mr. Deeds"), George Takei (last heard in "Kubo and the Two Strings"), Bruce Vilanch, John Paul DeJoria.

RATING: 2 out of 10 kids throwing rocks

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