I about gave up with Adam Sandler movies after Anger Management; his attempt at branding his humor a bit more "maturely" fell flat for me and still seemed to speak best to the eleven year-old I no longer was. 50 First Dates was awkward because for the first time, Sandler was trying to be a romantic lead in a romantic comedy, instead of the accidental male half of a relationship in a straight comedy; Click was an uneven mess between his usual schtick and a family drama; and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was just an abomination, poking fun at the very issues it could have supported. Needless to say, I didn't want to drop twelve bucks for You Don't Mess With The Zohan, but I figured surely the cost of the rental would be easily repaid with a few chuckles. Well, I thought wrong.
Fifteen minutes into the movie, Zohan (Sandler) was just announcing his dreams of exploring the wonderful world of hair (though we had already explored his surprisingly hairless-- especially when compared with the frizzy ball atop his head-- bare butt), and though quite a few stunts had taken place, not one laugh was emitted. I was dumbfounded; was this really an Adam Sandler movie? I almost felt compelled to check to DVD sleeve to be sure, but really, you can't mistake his prominent oval chin and nose, nor his almost baby-talk way of delivering dialogue. Countless bad accents and bits about the size and performance of his genitals later, Zohan was finally in New York, working in a small salon in a neighborhood where religious tension ran almost as high as it did in his homeland. Again, a Sandler film that could have detoured slightly into the importance of tolerance, acceptance, and communication, but again, instead it relied on stereotyping both groups in a weak attempt to garner some comedic effect.
More than an hour into the convoluted tale that now had Rob Schneider as a cabbie who recognizes Zohan and unsuccessfully tries to blackmail John Tuturro, who has been called a "national hero" for taking down the one-of-a-kind soldier, it is clear the movie is coming to an oddly violent climax for a Sandler film after a hackey sack tournament is proven to be a cover-up to sabotage and vandalism to try to turn both sides of the neighborhood against each other. Is this trying to draw a bridge between the comedy and the action film? Because I think the Naked Gun series proved that is best when left to parody and farce. But still, the first few laughs of the film finally come then, perhaps surprisingly, by cameo star Mariah Carey, who has a little fun at her own expense. After Sandler pals Chris Rock, Kevin James, Nick Swardson, and Kevin Nealon all popped up and failed to elicit the comedy genius for which they are usually known, the one everyone deemed an acting failure back in 2001 hit one out of the park.
Still, Sandler's recent body of work has put him in somewhat of a downward spiral, causing concern that he may have only been good for the "Shampoo is better... No! Conditioner is better!" debates of his (and our) youth, and taking on You Don't Mess With The Zohan is only putting another nail in his comedy coffin. Hopefully the softer side of him that will emerge in Disney's upcoming fantastical Bedtime Stories will set his career down a new path, opening the eyes of a new generation to his talent, and regain him some of his 1990s Q rating. Kids, after all, should still be able to appreciate him.