This, then, is no Mel Gibson movie. Gibson’s politics, in fact, are swiped at in this movie. No cultural conservative could possibly have written You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Sandler’s character becomes the most sought-after hairdresser in New York City because he joyfully includes sexual favors for senior citizens as part of his salon service package. At no point in the film is there even the slightest suggestion that there’s anything wrong with promiscuous sex or brazen prostitution.Given the limited movie time my wife and I have, Don't Mess with the Zohan probably won't make our viewing list until pay-per-view or HBO, but still, is there a change in Hollywood a comin'?
There’s a seriousness, though, beneath the surface of what is otherwise a ridiculous and crude cartoon with live actors. Israelis are portrayed as the good guys, which is not exactly what might be expected from Hollywood these days. Jokes are made at their expense, but the humor is not politically charged. Zohan brushes his teeth with hummus, for instance. His dad stirs it in his coffee.
American mall rats who buy theater tickets just for the laughs get a brief lesson on the Six Day War in 1967 and on Israel’s rules of engagement designed to shield innocent civilians from collateral damage. Zohan may be a raunchy comic book type of character, but he accurately represents most Israeli soldiers I’ve met in at least one way – he would much rather hang out with beautiful women on the beaches of Tel Aviv than fight Arabs. He’s easy to get along with as long as you are not trying to kill him. And if you are trying to kill him – watch out. The United States is correctly portrayed as a place where tension still exists between Israeli and Palestinian immigrants, but where that tension is also significantly muted and where some members of each community have pitched the old world hatreds over the side.
The second half of the movie gets even more silly and less believable when it begins to push a can’t-we-all-just-get-along message. Zohan’s boss, love interest, and the film’s heroine is Palestinian. The message is arguably appropriate, though, for a slap-stick American comedy. No one should expect a gritty, realistic treatment of tragic Middle East politics from a film like You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. The message, while a bit unrealistic, does manage to prevent a pro-Israel movie from becoming an anti-Arab movie, which is at it should be.
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is not anti-Arab, nor is it really right-wing. It is far too juvenile and bawdy for that. But it’s refreshingly not leftist either. Those who love to hate Israel will hate Sandler’s new movie as much as Hezbollah and Hamas undoubtedly will.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Political Lessons in an Adam Sandler Movie?
Micheal Totten notes that there are, and they are refreshingly Pro-Israel.