You Don't Mess With the Zohan

by Zach Oat October 6, 2008 12:16 pm
You Don't Mess With the Zohan

Adam Sandler's epic Israeli hairdresser film is many things. Controversial? Yes. Inspired by a 10-year-old SNL sketch? You bet. Risqué? Jesus Christ, yes. I haven't seen the theatrical version, so I don't know what specifically was added to the 2-disc unrated version aside from penis-slapping sound effects (a fact I gleaned from the commentary track), but the movie is definitely not PG-13 any more, that's for sure. So if you saw it in theaters and thought, "Man, this could use more shots of Adam Sandler's butt double," then you're in luck. Also, the extras aren't bad. They're not great, either, but they still give us more John Turturro, and that's always a good thing.

Commentary Tracks
There are two commentary tracks -- one with director Dennis Dugan, which I'm sure is very good, but I don't know why anyone would listen to that one when they could listen to the one that had Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, co-writer Robert Smigel and Reno 911 alum Nick Swardson, who plays Zohan's friend Michael. (Sadly, no Turturro.) The banter and teasing is relentless between the four old friends (this is Swardson's third Sandler film), and we learn some interesting things, like the fact that Sandler likes to refer to himself as "the Sandman" and that he hates hummus -- unfortunate, since Smigel wrote about 70 hummus jokes into the film. Also, the scene where Sandler kicks a guy a bunch of times was partially improvised, and almost didn't make it into the movie -- inauspicious beginnings for a joke that became not only the basis for Zohan's ad campaign but also the basis for Disaster Movie's ad campaign. And can you believe the "Smell it, smell it, now take it" line was inspired by one of Rob Schneider's fart jokes? You can? Yeah, me, too.

Deleted Scenes
There are 15 deleted scenes, and you can see why most of them were cut. If the original film had shown Sandler using his goggles to see through Palestinian women's burkas to find a disguised Phantom, that probably would have raised a few (more) complaints from Arab groups, despite seeming like a pretty funny gag to this Irish-Italian reviewer. Ditto a scene where cab driver Hamdi tries to enlist his daughter's help in looking up information about bombs on the Internet, although the complaints would probably have come from children's advocacy groups. (Still funny on this end.) But Turturro fans should check out a short bonus clip of Phantom training, plus scenes where he interacts with John McEnroe. Otherwise, the rest of the jokes are unnecessary throwaway gags, and a few of them would be more accurately titled "Outtakes": we see the full arguments between the three Israeli electronics salesmen (including Smigel) and their customers, and we see Salim and Hamdi trying out different hands-free ways to tell each other that their cabs smell bad.

There are a whopping 10 featurettes to choose from, but it's a bit of a mixed bag. Most of them have a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, but they also have a LOT of clips from the movie you just saw, as well as a good amount of redundancy. "Look Who Stopped By" runs down all of the guest-stars (Chris Rock, Kevin James, Henry Winkler) and shows them shooting their scenes, while "All-American Redneck" is specifically about Dave Matthews' fairly minor character. "The Stunts of Zohan" shows how they did all of the action sequences, including the one where Sandler swims after the Phantom's Jet-Ski, while "Zohan vs. the Phantom" talks to John Turturro about his character. "Dugan: The Hands-On Director" shows director Dennis Dugan having fun with his cast, while "Dugan Español?" shows Dugan trying to talk to his Mexican extras in their native tongue. "Shooting Baja for Tel Aviv" is bare-bones footage shot in and around La Paz, Mexico, where they filmed the Jet-Ski sequence and the scene where Dugan tried out his Spanish (doubly redundant!), and "Laughing is Contagious" is simply a blooper reel.

However, two features stand out: One, "From Guns to Scissors," talks to the film's Jewish and Arabic actors about the experience of working on a film set with people whom their Middle Eastern cousins would call their mortal enemies. The other, titled "The Robot," is an interview with Cobra, the robot who can barely be seen sitting in the back of the room during the briefing scene -- I didn't even notice him the first time. Apparently, based on the clips he shows (and his bitter, monotone commentary), he was a originally much bigger character in the film, and could be seen shooting on the firing range, participating in the briefing and helping with the mission before it was decided that he -- and his involvement in the film's original ending -- didn't test well, and there were re-shoots. (I'm assuming this is not all a big joke, because a lot of scenes where the robot interacts with the film's stars are shown.) Hilariously, Cobra had been programmed to be as human as possible, and is usually not feeling very well: he sneezes during the briefing, gets the runs during the mission and, in the film's original ending -- which they unfortunately do not show in its entirety -- he turns out to have the same non-violent dreams that Zohan and Phantom have. I want to know if this is all for real, then I want to see the original ending, and then I want to know what testing group decided Cobra wasn't funny, because, to me, it was one of the funniest things (not) in the film.

Bonus Featurettes
In addition to a downloadable copy of the film, the second disc of the set includes five additional featurettes exclusive to the two-disc version, also known as "The Five Featurettes That the Studio Was Okay With Cutting From the Single-Disc Version." One of them, "Zohan's Doubles," is actually not bad, as it introduces us to the talented swimmers, fighters and gymnasts who play Zohan in various scenes that are beyond Adam Sandler's abilities. The rest, though, are truly horrible. In "News on 3: Missing Goat," Salim (Rob Schneider) and Nasi talk about Salim's missing goat (stolen by Zohan long ago) in an interview presented as a newscast. The same with "News on 3: Who is the Zohan?," which features various characters talking about the legendary man, and "News on 3: It Is Good," which seems to be Robert Smigel's Israeli electronics dealer spitting a lot. Finally, "Getting Sticky" is a lot of clips of people having sex or talking about having sex, with some interviews with Sandler and Smigel about Zohan's potency and a lot of extras in bikinis talking about how much they want to get sticky with the Zohan. So basically, it pretty much sums up what the movie hits us over the head with for two hours.

Order your copy here!!




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