I'm a big Adam Sandler fan. Not a 'oh theres a new Adam Sandler film, I must see it now!' fan, more a 'Oh look, there's another repeat of 'Happy Gilmore' on Sky One ... thats a pleasant and assuredly pleasing way to pass an evening.' sort of fan. So, when Hellboy II was sold out this afternoon (!) we plumbed to watch 'Don't Mess With the Zohan' instead. It looked like it could be a good laugh. In some ways, it was, but in others it was a horribly painful awkward viewing experience.
The plot, if you haven't seen the trailer, is that Adam Sandler is 'The Zohan' - a legendary Israeli counter-terrorist who is tired of war and wants to move to the US and become a hair stylist. He does this, falls in love, has sex with lots of old women and then his past catches up with him and he is revealed! There are some other 'subplots' but really, thats not the point of the film - or indeed, this post.
As you would expect from most of these US Laugh Pack films, it is PACKED with cameo appearances - Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, Mariah Carey, John McEnroe, Kevin James, John Turturro, George Takei, Henry Winkler and (for the pro-wrestling geeks out there) Michael Buffer amongst others. Its quite funny seeing them pop up and wondering how the hell they got involved with this ... thing.
The problem is two fold. The first is that this film is a massive pisstake of the Arab-Israeli conflict wrapped up on some of the bluntest and least sensitive satire about the character of both sides of said conflict you could possibly get away with. Indeed, I think it is the almost absurd levels of satire (like Israeli's brushing their teeth with hummus, all jewish men working in electronics stores and the really near-the-knuckle 'Hezzbullah Hotline' segments) that allow it to carry on without being too much. That said, the fact that the incredibly hot woman in the salon where the Zohan finally gets work falls for him, despite the fact that he has shagging the octigenarian clientele in the back room (and she condones it) just beggars belief.
The second problem is that a LOT of the jokes are verbal ones spoken in what I assume is Yiddish (I'll be honest here, I have no idea!). You can sort of infer what is meant but half the time people were just laughing uncomfortably because they sort of assumed that what was said was supposed to be funny. It was like painful real life canned laughter.
And that was the real problem. As I had to explain to an American that stumbled onto my messageboards a couple of years ago and decided to brand every other person an Anti-Semite, in the UK we just do not make jokes about Jewish people. At all. Its just not done. Now I can recognise that a large number of the actors in this film are Jewish and they were being rather self-depricating. I can also see that this was a very blunt edged swipe at the Israeli man stereotypes but it was as if people felt that they weren't allowed to laugh. As if they would be told off if they laughed. It was exceptionally uncomfortable.
My laugh-out-loud hooting and wailing probably didn't help. No doubt I will be being visited by the police any time now...
'Don't Mess With the Zohan' is not a good film. It has to go to levels of intense absurdity to be able to frame the subject matter in a way that is even palatable. I would recommend seeing it when it comes out on SKY, just to experience it.
Oh, and it was a 12A apparently. *shakes head*