You Don't Mess with the Zohan
|You Don't Mess with the Zohan|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dennis Dugan|
|Music by||Rupert Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Tom Costain|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$201.1 million|
You Don't Mess with the Zohan is a 2008 American political satire black comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan and produced by Adam Sandler, who also starred in the film. It was the fourth film that included a collaboration of Sandler as actor and Dugan as director. The film revolves around Zohan Dvir (Hebrew: זוהן דביר), an Israeli counter-terrorist army commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream of becoming a hairstylist in New York City. The story was written by Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, and Robert Smigel. It was released on June 6, 2008 in the US and on August 15, 2008 in the UK. Despite generally mediocre reviews, the film was a moderate box office success, with a worldwide gross of $201 million from a $90 million budget.
Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) is a superhuman Israeli counter-terrorist and the finest and most respected soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. However, Zohan has become both disgusted and disenchanted by the constant fighting, secretly dreaming of moving to the USA and becoming a hairdresser. This reaches a breaking point when a barbecue he hosts is interrupted by the IDF sending Zohan on a mission to stop a Palestinian terrorist group being led by his personal arch-enemy, Fatoush "the Phantom" Hakbarah (John Turturro), another superhuman. Despite being upset over his ruined party, Zohan sees it as his long-awaited chance to desert the IDF and move to America. During the pursuit he fakes his own death and smuggles himself onto a flight to New York City, cutting his own hair and taking the alias "Scrappy Coco" (the names of two dogs he shared the flight with) while claiming that he is "Half Australian, Half Mount Everest." Meanwhile, the Phantom becomes rich and famous for supposedly killing Zohan and starts his own fast-food business, "Muchentuchen".
Initially unsuccessful in getting hired at several salons, Zohan's military expertise earns him a new friend, Michael (Nick Swardson), who gives him a place to stay. However, Michael starts to freak out when he finds Zohan having sex with his mother, Gail (Lainie Kazan). Zohan encounters a fellow Israeli named Oori (Ido Mosseri) at a disco; he recognizes Zohan but agrees to keep his identity a secret. Oori takes him to a block in lower Manhattan filled with Middle Eastern Americans, who are split between a Palestinian side and an Israeli side of the street. Zohan attempts to land a job in a struggling salon of a Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). After first only allowing Zohan to sweep floors for free, she eventually allows him to be a stylist after he pleases a senior lady with a satisfactory haircut and back room sexual service. Zohan's reputation spreads rapidly among the elderly women of lower Manhattan. Dalia's business booms, upsetting Grant Walbridge (Michael Buffer), a corporate magnate who has been trying to force out all the local tenants on the block so that he can build a rollercoaster mall.
Zohan is identified by a Palestinian cab driver named Salim (Rob Schneider), who bears a grudge against Zohan for having taken his goat away. Salim convinces his friends to help him kill Zohan but, after a failed bomb attempt, he is forced to contact Phantom. Salim attempts to blackmail Phantom, but he ends up getting the stiff end of the deal as he convinces Phantom to visit New York to find Zohan. Meanwhile, Zohan realizes that he has fallen in love with Dalia, and comes clean to Michael and his mother about his true identity, before meeting Dalia. Dalia rejects Zohan after he reveals he was formerly an Israeli counter-terrorist operative. Zohan decides to leave Dalia and confront Phantom in a championship Hacky Sack game sponsored by Walbridge. Zohan's fight is cut short with sudden news of the Middle Eastern block being attacked, and he quickly leaves.
Zohan arrives and calms the Israelis and Palestinians, who each blame the other for the violence, while making peace with Salim. Phantom then appears and confronts Zohan, but Zohan refuses to fight. Dalia appears, revealing that she is Phantom's sister, and convinces her brother to cooperate with Zohan against the arsonists, revealed to be white racist rednecks hired by Walbridge to instigate an inter-ethnic riot so he can get his new mall in the aftermath. As Zohan and Phantom work to save the block (by singing "The Sound", a sound so loud, it destroys many shops, blows the manhole cover, and even blows up the breasts of Walbridge's wife), the Phantom admits that he always wanted to be a shoe salesman rather than a terrorist. Although the rednecks are defeated and Walbridge sent to jail, Phantom keeps singing The Sound and accidentally destroys all of the shops on the block. However, with the Israelis and the Palestinians united, the block is transformed into a collectively owned mall called the Peace and Brotherhood Fire Insurance Mall. Oori re-opens his "Going out of Business" electronics store, Phantom opens a shoe store in the mall called Fatoush's Kickin' Shoes, Salim gets back his goat, which he gives children rides on next to Trendy Toddler, and Zohan and Dalia open a joint beauty parlor called Dalohan, Zohan having married Dalia. Zohan's parents show up approving his new life before his father asks that he cut his hair, which he happily does.
- Adam Sandler as Zohan Dvir/Scrappy Coco
- Emmanuelle Chriqui as Dalia Hakbarah
- Rob Schneider as Salim the taxi driver
- John Turturro as Fatoush "Phantom" Hakbarah
- Nick Swardson as Michael Klayman
- Lainie Kazan as Gail Klayman
- Ido Mosseri as Oori
- Daoud Heidami as Nasi
- John Paul DeJoria as Paul Mitchell
- Michael Buffer as Grant Walbridge
- Dave Matthews as James T. O'Skanlon the white supremacist
- Shelley Berman as Mr. Dvir, Zohan's father
- Dina Doronne as Mrs. Dvir, Zohan's mother
- Kevin Nealon as community watch member
- Robert Smigel as Yosi
- Sayed Badreya as Haleem
- Ahmed Ahmed as Waleed
- Alec Mapa as Claude
- Chris Rock as taxi driver
- Maysoon Zayid as Nadira
- Rick Gifford as Philip
- Barry Livingston as Gray Kleibolt (Pancake)
- Henry Winkler as himself
- Kevin James as himself (uncredited)
- Mariah Carey as herself
- Julia Lea Wolov as Mariah's Assistant
- Dana Goodman as Mariah's Assistant
- John McEnroe as himself
- George Takei as himself
- Bruce Vilanch as himself
- Charlotte Rae as hair dresser customer
Sandler, Robert Smigel, and Judd Apatow wrote the first draft of the script in 2000, but the movie was delayed after the events of 9/11 because those involved felt that the subject would be too sensitive. Apatow left the project after the first draft in 2000 to work on his show Undeclared and had, for the most part, not been involved in the project since. The film is based in part on the story of Nezi Arbib, an Israeli soldier who after his service moved to southern California and opened a hair salon. Sandler trained with Arbib and his brothers, also former soldiers, for two weeks to learn hairstyling and work with clients. The movie features elements that first appeared in the SNL sketches "Sabra Shopping Network" and "Sabra Price Is Right," which starred Tom Hanks and were written by Robert Smigel. They originated lines such as 'Sony guts' and 'Disco, Disco, good, good'. The first sketch is also notable for featuring one of Adam Sandler's first (uncredited) television appearances while the second featured Sandler, Schneider, Smigel and Kevin Nealon in supporting parts. Robert Smigel worked with Sandler on past films including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Little Nicky, but this was the first time in which he was credited for helping to write the script. He was also an executive producer on the film which allowed him to further contribute to the movie's comedic sensilbility. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented that the movie was known in Hollywood circles as "the Israeli movie." Haaretz also noted that while "Israeli actors were rushing to audition [for the movie], the response among Arab actors was far from enthusiastic. (Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played Zohan's Palestinian love interest, was raised as an Orthodox Jew.) The film poked fun at the popularity of hummus in Israeli culture. In the movie, characters used it to brush their teeth and as a method to douse the flames of a fire, as well as a hair care product.
The score to the film was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. He recorded his score with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage in April 2008. The soundtrack contains many songs in Hebrew, mostly by the popular Israeli band Hadag Nahash, the psychedelic trance duo Infected Mushroom, and Dana International. The film features "Strip" by Adam Ant, "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Angel City Remix)" by Bananarama, the Ace of Base songs "Hallo Hallo" and "Beautiful Life", the Rockwell song Somebody's Watching Me and Mariah Carey songs "Fantasy" and "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time".
The soundtrack contains (near the end) music re-arranged for the movie by Julius Dobos, based on the song "Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja" from the Bollywood movie Disco Dancer (1982) starring Mithun Chakraborty.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 37% based on 182 reviews — with the site's consensus that the film "features intermittent laughs, and will please Sandler diehards, but after a while the leaky premise wears thin." Metacritic gives the film a rating of 54 out of 100, based on 37 reviews—indicating mixed or average reviews.
John Podhoretz, in The Weekly Standard, wrote that the movie has a "mess" of a plot and features, "as usual for Sandler, plenty of dumb humor of the sort that gives dumb humor a bad name, but that delights his 14-year-old-boy fan base." But the film also has an "unusual" amount of "tantalizing comic ideas" so that "every 10 minutes or so, it makes you explode with laughter." Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a C+ grade, calling it "another 'mess' from Sandler" which is, unlike Monty Python, a "circus that never flies."
On the positive side, Time claimed the film to be a "laff scuffle," and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. David Edelstein of New York Magazine went as far as to say "Adam Sandler is mesmerizing," and A.O. Scott of The New York Times said it was "the finest post-Zionist action-hairdressing sex comedy I have ever seen."
You Don't Mess with the Zohan grossed $38 million on its opening weekend, ranked second behind Kung Fu Panda. As of September 7, 2008[update], it reached a domestic tally of $100,018,837, continuing Sandler's streak of making over $100 million at the domestic box office. The film grossed $202,910,994 worldwide.
Home media 
The film was released on DVD on October 7, 2008 with a 2-disc unrated edition, a single-disc unrated edition, and a theatrical edition, as well as a Blu-ray edition and UMD for PSP. It has sold over 1.2 million DVD units gathering revenue of $25.1 million.
- "You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- You Don't Mess With the Zohan – Box Office Mojo
- "Box Office Mojo: You Don't Mess With the Zohan". Box oFfice Mojo. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- Rabin, Nathan (June 2, 2008). "Interview: Robert Smigel". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
- "Real-Life 'Zohan' Calls San Diego Home". 10News.com. 2008-06-04. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
- Gilad Halpern (May 25, 2008). "'Shampoo' meets 'Munich': New Adam Sandler film stars Mossad hit man turned hairdresser". Haaretz.
- Podhoretz, John (June 16, 2008). "Pushtak to Shove: Adam Sandler attacks the Middle East". The Weekly Standard. 13 (38). Retrieved June 13, 2008.
- Marks, Gil (2010), Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 269–271
- ‘Zohan’ Film Styles a New Israeli Hero, Rebecca Spence. The Forward. June 12, 2008
- The Commentator: Is Adam Sandler Our Greatest Jewish Mind?, Daniel Treiman. The Forward. June 19, 2008
- Dan Goldwasser (2008-04-20). "Rupert Gregson-Williams scores You Don't Mess with the Zohan". ScoringSessions.com. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
- You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Rotten Tomatoes
- You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Metacritic
- Lisa Schwarzbaum (June 13, 2008). "Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)". Entertainment Weekly (997).
- Richard Schickel (June 5, 2008). "Zohan: Laff Scuffle, Not Laff Riot". Time.
- Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (PG-13). Roger Ebert. June 6, 2008.
- David Edelstein (June 5, 2008). "Israeli Stud, Aspiring Hairdresser". New York Magazine.
- A.O. Scott (June 6, 2008). "Watch Out, He's Packing a Blow-Dryer". The New York Times.
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