June 8, 2008

You Don't Mess With The Zohan

zohan!A novel and promising comedic premise, totally squandered. Sandler totally takes the easy and lazy way out: a kernel of a very funny movie is on the page, but Sandler doesn't push to make the movie better.

Zohan is a ridiculously efficient Mossad counter-terrorist agent, who is fed up with the endless conflict with Palestine. His action scenes, which are almost completely contained in the first 15 minutes, are a spot-on parody of the Bourne movies, especially when he catches bullets in his hand, his teeth, and his nostril. Zohan goes to New York and becomes a hairdresser, and we hardly see any sign of the counterterrorist again. Instead, he becomes a instant sensation for his throwback 1980s hairstyles (because Israeli culture is so far behind the US) and for vigorously screwing all the senior ladies who come in for a coif, including Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life!

The movie is chock-a-block with hummus jokes-- if I told you how many hummus jokes are in this movie you wouldn't believe me-- distracting and dumb cameos, and a borderline offensive "brownface" performance by Rob Schneider. Never mind that Schneider is a Roach Motel of comedy (jokes go in, they don't come out), but he puts on a big "Arab" nose and dark makeup to play a ornery Arab cab driver who aspires to terror greatness.

Speaking of cameos, I think WWE blowhard Vince McMahon is playing the cardboard cutout bad guy who tries to pit the Israelis and Arabs against each other. I think it was him, but I am not sure because a> I don't watch WWE, and b> He looks like he's had more plastic surgery than Kenny Rogers and Joan Rivers combined. Only when they shoe-horned in one of his "let's get ready to RUMBLE"-style hollers did it occur to me that I was supposed to recognize this person. I won't say "actor", because he didn't do any. Mariah Carey also made a cameo, as herself, and she was great. They kept it simple, and she nailed her jokes. For some reason, Dave Matthews appeared in several scenes as a parody of a southern racist redneck. His final scene consisted of his character flying through the air, through an apartment window, and into the middle of a cocktail party, when he finds himself between famous homosexuals George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) and Bruce Vilanch (joke writer for the Oscars) who looks like Jabba The Hutt with a blond wig + red glasses, or maybe a Muppet crossed with a thousand-gallon breast implant. My friend Phil left about 15 minutes before it was over, and I should have followed him out.

TRAILERS: Sometimes a trailer can leave too much out. Sometimes a trailer, desperate to leave something to the imagination, leaves the audience bored. This is the trailer for The Happening. It turns out the thing which is "happening" is invisible, so there's nothing to show! We also saw a trailer for an "independent" movie (cheap and no stars) called Baghead. Based on the trailer, I think it's supposed to be a meta-horror movie, like Scream: Four struggling actors retreat to a cabin to write a screenplay. What happens when their story idea -- a horror flick about a killer with a bag over his head -- starts to come true? About halfway through the trailer, some of the audience started giggling. It's such a sad and tired premise, and the trailer was so shoddy, I couldn't tell if the movie was supposed to be serious or not...(Landmark Embassy Cinema, Waltham MA)