Finishing up 2000 words about robots sucked away my writing time as of late. But that assignment is now complete (URL when available) and so I turn my mind to new matters, like ZOHAN.
It’s a weird, risky concept, especially given the level of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred in the world (even here in the U.S.). So kudos to all involved just for having the balls to make an Israeli agent a comedy lead.
And Zohan’s first act in Israel is arguably funnier than the last few Will Farrell movies combined. The Zohan character is Adam Sandler’s best comic creation to date, and the Israel section plays almost like a lost Zucker Bros. film from the TOP SECRET era. Fast paced, zany, ridiculous fun. Moments that fell flat in the trailer – such as his extended flying wall kick – work perfectly in context. If the whole movie had kept up this pace then it would have been a contender for Comedy of the Year.
Unfortunately everything slooooows down the moment he gets on the plane to New York. It’s like the filmmakers didn’t want to cut any jokes, even the weak ones, and and so it feels like forever before Zohan actually gets a job at a salon. But even then we’re subjected to bits like the “Zohan obsessively cleans up hair” montage which aren’t all that funny and kill the pacing.
Which is not to say there isn’t a lot of funny goodness in there, too. It’s just that a bit of editing would have gone a long way towards making the second act more successful.
The Palestinian moments are also a bit lost, conceptually. It’s all about as funny as the “Hezbollah Hotline” joke from the trailer, which is to say, not very. The random collection of Palestinians who work across the street from Zohan’s salon are actually much more interesting than the three Rob Schneider-led leads, and I could have happily spent more time with them.
Somewhere along the way they truck out the “evil developer” plotline, or as I like to call it, The Most Tired Plot Device In The Known Universe. It kind of comes from nowhere, and it doesn’t really go anywhere. Thankfully not a lot of time is given to it.
And on and on. Very funny bits continue to pop up in the midst of an overlong film. How about this for a change: a “director’s cut” that is actually 15 minutes shorter?
We could talk about racial stereotypes, the oversimplification of very complex issues, etc. but it would be pointless. This is a “Why can’t we all just get along?” comedy, a fantasy in which Israeli agents leap tall buildings in a single bound and Palestinians hang upside down from ceilings like Spider-Man. Nobody’s view of Middle Eastern politics will be changed by the film.
Despite the many issues I’d love to see a sequel set entirely in Israel, as that environment seemed to bring out the best from all involved. It’ll never happen – but I’d love to see it.