Mmmmm, hummus. The tasty chickpea paste is the favorite foodstuff of the Zohan, the commando who dreams secretly of comb-outs.
Zohan (Adam Sandler, with a credible Israeli accent) is the Jewish James Bond who snacks on hummus, brushes his teeth with it, uses it to tame the frizzies - and also to spackle the gaping plotholes of the unruly hank of slapstick, You Don't Mess With the Zohan.
Wielding Uzi and blow-dryer with equal ease, Zohan is a macho boytoy who resembles the spawn of Eric Bana's muscular Mossad agent in Munich and Warren Beatty's hairstylist/womanizer in Shampoo.
Given the Zohan's shaggy locks and biblical beard, it isn't readily apparent that hair care is an obsession with the Jewish James Bond.
The counterspy with the martial-arts skills of Jackie Chan, the swagger of Daniel Craig, and the surprise package of John Holmes wants to opt out of the endless eye-for-an-eye with his Palestinian adversary, the Phantom (John Turturro).
How many times can they play ping-pong with hand grenades, hacky-sack with scimitars?
Tired of the unending fight between Arab and Jew, the Zohan fakes his own death and stows away to America where he hopes to transform himself - and client hair - from harsh and coarse into "silky smooth." In America, Zohan favors unbuttoned disco shirts and stonewashed jeans so tight that his Gaza Strip looks like Mount Sinai.
Inevitably he falls for a fetching Palestinian, Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who operates the downtown salon where he finds a job and also finds that immigrant Arabs and Jews are more alike than not. In the Middle East, Arab and Jew are adversaries. In America, they share a common enemy: racists.
While Zohan purveys the familiar Sandler mix of Jewvenile humor and geriatric love (Zohan does biddy hair, then does them), it's less about a manic manchild than it is a raunchily wholesome message movie that deploys stereotypes in order to smash them. In other words, less like The Waterboy and more like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, only funny. (Sandler, the consummate film politician, makes movies to please multiple constituencies.)
In the amiably messy screenplay written by Sandler, Robert Smigel and the ubiquitous Judd Apatow, Jews and Arabs both are cunning merchants with specialized niches, respectively electronics stores and newsstands.
As it exploits ethnic stereotypes - dim Arab bombmakers who don't know the difference between nitroglycerine and Neosporin, wily Jewish salesmen who bait and switch their customers - Zohan wrings groans and giggles. The sight of Sandler regular Rob Schneider as a Palestinian cabbie who phones the Hezbollah hotline produces both.
Salaam aleikum, shalom aleichem and out.
You Don't Mess With the Zohan **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Dennis Dugan. With Adam Sandler, Emmanuelle Chriqui, John Turturro, Lainie Kazan and Rob Schneider. Distributed by Sony Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 53 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13
Playing at: area theatersEndText