You Don't Mess with the Zohan

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You Don't Mess with the Zohan
With the zohan.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Produced by
Written by
Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Michael Barrett
Edited by Tom Costain
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 6, 2008 (2008-06-06)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Box office $201.1 million[2]

You Don't Mess with the Zohan is a 2008 American political satire 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 counterterrorist 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. The film grossed $201 million worldwide from a $90 million budget.[3]


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 disillusioned by the constant fighting, secretly dreaming of moving to the US 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 "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 plane to New York City, cuts his hair, and adopts the alias "Scrappy Coco" (which is a pseudonym of the names of the two dogs he shared the flight's baggage hold with) while claiming that he is "Half Australian, Half Mount Everest (though people mistake it for Tibetan)." Meanwhile, Phantom becomes rich and famous for supposedly killing Zohan and starts his own fast-food chain, "Phantom's Muchentuchen" (which is apparently a food that is compared with steak).

Initially unsuccessful in finding employment 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 lose comfort in Zohan when he finds him sleeping with his mother, Gail (Lainie Kazan). Zohan encounters a fellow Israeli named Oori (Ido Mosseri), who owns an electronics store, at a disco; he recognizes Zohan but vows to keep his identity a secret. Zohan attempts to gain a job, but Oori turns him down, informing him that several workers had dreams of their own, but got used to the lifestyle of the store, and Oori's reason to turn Zohan down is that he respects his dream too much to let Zohan kill his own dream, which Zohan commends him for. Oori takes him to an area in lower Manhattan populated with Middle Eastern immigrants, who are split between a Palestinian side and an Israeli side of the street. Zohan is fearful at first, but after Oori informs him of Phantom's success (and following a memory of a mercenary cutting his hand off, but he telekinetically controls it and stabs the mercenary in the back, and drinking a Fizzy Bubblech drink afterwards), Zohan attempts to land a job in a struggling salon of a Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Dalia reluctantly allows Zohan to sweep floors for free, but after losing one of her employees (and an apparent attempt at suicide), she eventually allows him to be a stylist after he pleases a senior lady with an exceptional haircut and back room sexual service. Zohan's reputation spreads rapidly among the more elderly women of lower Manhattan, causing Dalia's business to prosper, which upsets Grant Walbridge (Michael Buffer), a corporate magnate who has been trying to buy 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 in Palestine long ago because Salim spat on him. Salim convinces his friends, Hamdi and Nasi, to help him kill Zohan, but after two failed attempts to contact another terrorist through a customer service line, and a failed bomb attempt (in which they confuse 12 boxes of Neosporin for nitroglycerine, thanks to Salim mispronouncing the word), they are 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, after Zohan takes Michael's shift for a community nightwatch and takes out a series of graffiti artists, which frustrates Walbridge even further, he realizes that he has fallen in love with Dalia and comes clean to Michael and his mother about his true identity (after learning of Phantom's visit, even though Michael had apparently figured that out already) before meeting Dalia. Dalia rejects Zohan after he reveals he was formerly an Israeli counterterrorist operative. Zohan decides to leave Dalia to protect her, though she gives him a Paul Mitchell book as a leaving gift, and confront Phantom in a championship Hacky Sack game sponsored by Walbridge. After Phantom meets with Mariah Carey, Zohan arrives and reluctantly begins to fight Phantom. Zohan's fight is cut short with sudden news of the Middle Eastern block being attacked, and he quickly leaves, shortly after discussing his plans with Michael and an undercover agent.

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 racist rednecks hired by Walbridge to instigate an interethnic riot so he can get his new mall in the aftermath. As Zohan and Phantom work to save the block (both by kicking combat, and by singing "The Sound", a sound so loud, it destroys many shop windows, blows the manhole cover, and even blows up the artificial breasts of Walbridge's girlfriend), Phantom admits that he always wanted to be a shoe salesman rather than a terrorist. Although the rednecks are defeated (with the lead one in a humiliating way) and Walbridge is jailed (since the methods he used were far from legal), Phantom continues singing "The Sound" and accidentally destroys all of the shops on the block. However, with the Israelis and Palestinians united (and rekindled, in the case of Zohan and Salim), the block is transformed into a collectively owned mall called the Peace and Brotherhood Fire Insurance Mall. Phantom opens a shoe shop in the mall called Fatoush's Kickin' Shoes (having stopped being embarrassed about his first name, and having apparently closed the muchentuchen restaurant chain), Oori reopens his "Going Out of Business" electronics shop, Salim gets back his goat, which he gives small children rides on next to a baby shop, and Zohan and Dalia open a beauty salon together called Dalohan (which is presumably their ship name), with Zohan having now married Dalia. In the end, Zohan's parents, initially unsupportive of his dream to be a hairdresser, show up, approving of his new job and lifestyle before his father requests that he cut his hair, which Zohan happily does.




Filming of one of the scenes while in Mexico

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] (Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played Zohan's Palestinian love interest, was raised as an Orthodox Jew.[7]) 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,[8][9] as well as a hair care product.[10]


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.[11] 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.


Critical reception[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 37% based on 182 reviews; the site's consensus is that the film "features intermittent laughs, and will please Sandler diehards, but after a while the leaky premise wears thin."[12] Metacritic gives the film a rating of 54 out of 100, based on 37 reviews—indicating mixed or average reviews.[13]

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."[7] Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a C+ grade, calling it "another 'mess' from Sandler" which is, unlike Monty Python, a "circus that never flies."[14]

On the positive side, Time claimed the film to be a "laff scuffle,"[15] and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars.[16] David Edelstein of New York Magazine went as far as to say "Adam Sandler is mesmerizing,"[17] and A.O. Scott of The New York Times said it was "the finest post-Zionist action-hairdressing sex comedy I have ever seen."[18]

Box office[edit]

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, it reached a domestic tally of $100 million. The film grossed $202.9 million worldwide.[2]

Home media [edit]

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.[2]


  1. ^ "You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c You Don't Mess With the Zohan – Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Box Office Mojo: You Don't Mess With the Zohan". Box oFfice Mojo. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Rabin, Nathan (June 2, 2008). "Interview: Robert Smigel". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  5. ^ "Real-Life 'Zohan' Calls San Diego Home". 2008-06-04. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ Gilad Halpern (May 25, 2008). "'Shampoo' meets 'Munich': New Adam Sandler film stars Mossad hit man turned hairdresser". Haaretz. 
  7. ^ a b Podhoretz, John (June 16, 2008). "Pushtak to Shove: Adam Sandler attacks the Middle East". The Weekly Standard. 13 (38). Retrieved June 13, 2008. 
  8. ^ Marks, Gil (2010), Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 269–271
  9. ^ ‘Zohan’ Film Styles a New Israeli Hero, Rebecca Spence. The Forward. June 12, 2008
  10. ^ The Commentator: Is Adam Sandler Our Greatest Jewish Mind?, Daniel Treiman. The Forward. June 19, 2008
  11. ^ Dan Goldwasser (2008-04-20). "Rupert Gregson-Williams scores You Don't Mess with the Zohan". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  12. ^ You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Rotten Tomatoes
  13. ^ You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Metacritic
  14. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum (June 13, 2008). "Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)". Entertainment Weekly (997). 
  15. ^ Richard Schickel (June 5, 2008). "Zohan: Laff Scuffle, Not Laff Riot". Time. 
  16. ^ Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (PG-13). Roger Ebert. June 6, 2008.
  17. ^ David Edelstein (June 5, 2008). "Israeli Stud, Aspiring Hairdresser". New York Magazine. 
  18. ^ A.O. Scott (June 6, 2008). "Watch Out, He's Packing a Blow-Dryer". The New York Times. 

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