Published June 05, 2008
There’s a lot to say about Adam Sandler’s new comedy, “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan”—like, you’ve never seen anything like this before.
But right up front is this: a two-pronged attack on Mel Gibson for his anti-Semitic comments a couple of years ago. When Gibson sees “Zohan,” I think it’s pretty clear he won’t be laughing. He probably also won’t be doing business with either Sony or Sandler ever again.
I’m quite sure that Sandler doesn’t care, and I suppose Sony doesn’t either. Gibson is considered pretty much radioactive in Hollywood following his whole Malibu arrest and rant, his subsequent unconvincing mea culpa to Diane Sawyer and his further sightings in alcohol-friendly situations.
But Sandler and writers Judd Apatow and Rob Smigel don’t go easy on him. At least twice in “Zohan” they hold Gibson up for ridicule. In one instance, he’s the punchline for a joke. In another, more explicitly, his movies are used to underscore the neo-Nazi rantings of a redneck played by rocker Dave Matthews.
And it’s not like the jokes are completely out of place. Sandler, who’s Jewish in real life, plays the title character, an Israeli counter-terrorist who yearns to find peace in America as a hair stylist.
Absurd as this notion is, the wildly uneven “Zohan” script tries to balance a message of peace and understanding among Israelis and Arabs with a kind of gross-out Farrelly brothers-type smorgasbord of hit or miss “bits.”
Some of the latter are very funny, including a game of hacky sack played with a cat instead of a pouch, and a running gag about a Hezbollah help line that requires “press 1” or “press 2” for help.
There’s also a nod to Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” in that Zohan not only cuts the hair of old ladies, he has sex with them, too. Shades of Max Bialystock and his troop of walker-bound biddies.
Otherwise “Zohan” is a real hodgepodge that veers in every direction at the same time. There are a bunch of offbeat cameos from TV stars of the past including Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”), Charlotte Rae (“Facts of Life”), Kathleen Noone (“Knots Landing”) and Barry Livingston, who played cute little Ernie on “My Three Sons.”
(Co-scripter Smigel told me he got misty-eyed reminiscing with Livingston about his favorite “Three Sons” episode — in which Ernie learns he was adopted.)
There are also “surprise” cameos from Chris Rock, Kevin Nealon, wrestling announcer Michael Buffer and the nearly intolerable Rob Schneider. Producer and Motion Picture Academy president Sid Ganis has a scene as a doctor. Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, who really is Israeli, does a fine job as one of Zohan’s fellow spies. I don’t know why they are all in it, but finding them becomes a diverting game when “Zohan” starts jumping the shark.
Did I mention that Mariah Carey not only has an extended cameo with lines, but also gets her new single played? She plays herself and she’s very funny. (Mariah, stick to comedy!) Zohan also inexplicably wears a number of her different T-shirts from over the years.
And there’s an even more topical cameo from George Takei, Sulu from “Star Trek,” and Academy Award show writer Bruce Vilanch, as a gay couple, and John McEnroe and Kevin James as buddies. John Paul DeJoria, of Paul Mitchell hair salon fame, even gets a scene. Veteran comedian Shelley Berman (82 and still kicking!) plays Zohan’s father.
All the cameos hardly leave time for the actual actors with larger roles in the film — John Turturro, Lainie Kazan, Daoud Heidami and the exquisite Emmanuelle Chriqui — all of whom manage to give Sandler the support he needs in this preposterous but grudgingly humorous venture. (Come on — where else are you going to see the Fonz vomit?)
Sandler remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery. He made some progress in serious films like “Punch Drunk Love” and “Spanglish.” He was almost endearing in “The Wedding Singer” and “Anger Management.” But he seems compelled to return to the scenes of crimes like "Little Nicky," "Click," "Mr. Deeds," "Big Daddy" and last year’s incredibly egregious "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry."
It seemed like this was all coming to an end, but now with Apatow on board, not to mention director Dennis Dugan, the light has gone out at the end of the tunnel.
Karen Allen, Entrepreneur; Books Lose Again; Dina Lohan Gets Serious; Anonymous Sets Sail
Don’t miss the current issue of More magazine with “Indiana Jones” star Karen Allen. At 56, Allen is having trouble explaining to everyone in Hollywood why she looks so good without plastic surgery. Maybe it’s because she left Hollywood before it ate her soul, moved to western Massachusetts, took up yoga and knitting and started a successful business! ...
There was a report Wednesday night that Jane Friedman (no relation to yours truly) has left or been fired from Harper Collins. She’s been the wildly successful head of the company for nine years. I’ve known Jane since she was at Random House in the early 1980s. She’s a class act. All of the book world loses if this departure is true. ...
Lindsay Lohan’s mom, Dina Lohan, can’t catch a break in the press. But here’s one. Last Friday with no notice, Dina and brother Paul lent their celebrity to a good cause called Project Cuddle. The Long Island-based foundation and hotline, 888-628-3353 (88 TO CUDDLE), that offers pregnant women “a safe, legal and confidential alternative to baby desertion.” The group says they’ve helped save over 600 babies in the last eight years from abandonment or worse. Dina and Paul were joined by "America’s Next Top Model" star Caridee English. Bravo to all of them! ...
Cruise Wear: It’s a weird coincidence that Tom Cruise’s last name sort of fits with Scientology’s upper echelon group called Sea Orgs. It’s a scary level of achievement, according to former sect members Jason Beghe and Jenna Miscavige, whose uncle David is the group’s leader and Cruise’s best pal. Now comes a press release from Anonymous, the group that’s fighting Scientology on the Web. They’re launching a program called Sea Arrrgh on June 14 to “raise public awareness of what they consider to be the scurrilous and black-hearted activities of the Church of Scientology.” You can read all about it at www.seaarrrgh.com, www.whyweprotest.net, www.enturbulation.org and www.youfoundthecard.com.