DURING the opening chapter of Dennis Dugan’s comedy about an Israeli agent who dreams of becoming a hairdresser, one of the coiffure-crazed hero’s friends barks: “No giggling at the Zohan!”
We’re only too willing to oblige.
We struggle to muster a smile at the lifeless punch lines in a misfiring script cobbled together by leading man Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow, the creative spark for The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
Sadly, there’s no touch of genius here, just puerile humour and cultural stereotypes born from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, plus a waft of homophobia left over from Sandler’s previous film, the execrable I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry.
Counter-terrorist commando Zohan (Sandler, right) is the toast of his homeland, and the apple of the eye of his adoring parents, who coo, “You’ve caught so many terrorists, it’s an art. You’re like Rembrandt with a grenade!”
The Palestinians, caught in the crossfire of these bloody rampages, would doubtless disagree if the film gave them a voice.
Secretly, Zohan has little interest in espionage. Instead, his burning desire is to cut and trim like hairdressing hero Paul Mitchell.
“I just want to make people silky smooth,” he sobs.
So the Israeli operative fakes his own death during a duel with arch-nemesis the Phantom (John Turturro), and heads off to America where he invents a new identity, Australian crimper Scrappy Coco.
He finds lodgings in Brooklyn with shy Michael (Nick Swardson) and his lonely mother Gail (Lainie Kazan), who is soon enjoying Zohan’s special one-on-one treatments.
Israeli immigrant Oori recognizes the super spy but agrees to maintain his cover, helping his countryman to land a job in a salon run by Palestinian beauty Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui).
Zohan is soon the talk of the neighbourhood.
However, the commando’s past comes back to haunt him when the Phantom turns up in the Big Apple, eager to resume hostilities.
You Don’t Want To Mess With The Zohan feels a great deal longer than 112 minutes, lurching from one ridiculous escapade as the hero defies the odds to make his mark in America.
The leading man’s lack of charm makes a mockery of his character’s ability to sweet talk the female clientele of the hair salon into the back room, where he dazzles them with a lot more than a cut and blow dry.
He’s equally unconvincing as a rugged action man, whose gravity-defying antics inspire Michael to gasp, “What are you, like, bionic?”
“No, I only like the girls,” responds our hero cheerily.
Centuries of conflict are neatly resolved as Israelis and Palestinians join forces in the closing minutes to defeat an even greater foe: rampant American capitalism; the very same enemy that wants all your hard-earned cash for this rubbish.
Just this one time, follow Zohan’s pitiful example and resist.