Movie News & Reviews

Zohan better on TBS than in theater

Here it comes: Billy Madison is the Pulp Fiction ofdoofy ridiculous comedies.

For better or worse, the comedies of the last 15 years have beenfull of idiotic maniacs from an alternate world where cartoonishbeatings and dangerously unbalanced relationships win the girl and therespect of your fellow man. For us violent sociopaths, it's a greattime to be alive.

For movie fans, it's a decidedly less great time. These movies(Anchorman being a kinda-recent example of one of the goodones) take a very precise level of chaos which, when handled badly,make you imagined the script-pitching process went something like"OK, so Adam Sandler's character was in a childhood sitting accident thatleft him with a transplanted gorilla brain and a lifelong fear ofchairs. He's made a successful career as a minor-league pirate, butnow his plucky boat of brigands is being threatened by -- get this -- asmoking hot woman captain with two barstools for legs. A littlepredictable, but we've brought in five guys who think they're Napoleonto punch up the script. Let's roll!"

Rather than fleshing that out with actual jokes, though, they'recontent to just load that concept up with even more nonsense and sailit all the way to Disappointment Bay. Needless to say, despite mydeep and abiding love of Billy Madison, Sandler's latest,You Don't Mess With the Zohan, didn't look to break that trend.

Sandler's an Israeli Mossad agent so badass he can catch bullets inhis nose and single-handedly capture arch-enemies such as John Turturro.He grows weary of the endless fighting, though, and in a showdown withTurturro, he fakes his own death.

This gives Sandler the chance to start over in America, where hepursues his dream of becoming a hairdresser. It's tough going, andafter being laughed out of the top salon in New York, he's forced totake up work sweeping the floors at a Palestinian-owned barber shop.

When his big break comes, he proves equally adept at cutting hair andsexing up his middle-aged clientele. But his new fame catches the eyeof Rob Schneider, a Palestinian who's nursed a grudge ever sinceSandler stole his pet goat -- and who moves to set Turturro back onSandler's tail.

Bad news: Zohan is co-written by Sandler, who hasn't been funnysince around the time the proto-Jews were deciding one god is reallyall you need.

Good news: his co-writers are Judd Apatow, the ComedyKing Midas, and Robert Smigel, whose satire on Saturday NightLive has been so biting at least one sketch was permanently pulledfrom the air.

The result is one of the craziest, goofiest comedies in years, anonstop joke fusillade which misses constantly but, like a lethaltwo-hour artillery barrage, often finds its mark, too. Catching fishbetween your ass cheeks? Not all that funny. Monofilament-sharp digsat Mel Gibson's anti-semitism? Now that's comedy.

People are going to call Zohan stupid, and people are going tobe right. But there's a difference between "stupid-stupid" and"inspired, totally absurdly stupid." It can be a subtle distinction,to be sure -- to this day there remain some unfortunate souls who can'tsee the awesome splendor of, say, the scene in Billy Madisonwhere Chris Farley makes out with a man-sized penguin who may or maynot be real.

Not that Zohan ever reaches those rarefied heights. Thatscene is like the Shakespeare of dumb. Zohan has got enough ofthe absurd-stupid to make the heaping piles of stupid-stupidforgivable, though, particularly once its yelping horde of maniacalsubplots start to converge.

Calling it Sandler's best since Happy Gilmore would barelytwitch the needle on the Praise-ometer. It's funny, yeah, but moreharmlessly ridiculous than consistently laugh-provoking -- that specialbrand of "kinda good, but let's not forget all those semi-lame parts"movie that will look much more impressive on TBS than it did in thetheater.

Grade: B-