Adam Sandler ventures into political satire with this new comedy, playing an Israeli hit man who flees to the United States to become a hairdresser. But in his New York neighborhood, he discovers that Arab and Israeli immigrants are carrying their Middle East tension as excess baggage when they’re forced to cope with a far greater adversary.
A legendary Mossad commando, Dvir Zohan (Sandler) fakes his own death at the hands of his arch-enemy, the Palestinian Phantom (John Turturro), in order to begin a new life. With a Paul Mitchell stylebook under his arm, he attempts, unsuccessfully, to infiltrate high-end Manhattan hair salons. Yet with the help of new friends (Lainie Kazan, Nick Swardson) and vast quantities of hummus, Zohan manages to reinvent himself as swaggering “Scrappy Coco” and land a position at a run-down salon in Brooklyn, working for a beautiful Palestinian (Emmanuelle Chriqui) while shagging a clientele of older women – until his cover is cracked by a Palestinian cabbie (Rob Schneider).
Written with customary crudeness by Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow and directed by Dennis Dugan, the story, which deals with the cycle of Middle Eastern violence, tries not to take sides. But when three wannabe Arab terrorists phone the “Hazbollah Hot Line” for bomb-making instructions, they’re told the information is “not currently available during peace talks with Israel” and to call back “as soon as the negotiations break down.” Amid bits by Mariah Carey, Henry Winkler, Chris Rock and George Takei, the villains are Mel Gibson-loving racists hired by a Trump-like real-estate developer.
On the Granger Movie Gauge, “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” is a silky smooth, subversively silly 7, making the genial moral that Israelis and Arabs are more alike than dissimilar.