Sandler Lampoons Mel Gibson | 'Indiana Jones' Actress Escapes Hollywood
Mel Gibson Lampooned by Adam Sandler
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.
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