Like a bad haircut that works only when you part or tie your hair a certain way, You Don't Mess with the Zohan is funny only sometimes, for two-minute segments, leaving you with long, almost surreal stretches in between in which you are wondering whether what you are watching is really that bad or so brilliant that you're just not getting it. It doesn't take long after the funny, promising 20 minutes—which include a fresh, funny and increasingly ridiculous fight sequence—to realize that the filler that takes up a considerable chunk of the two-hour comedy is, well, just that.
Adam Sandler plays a badass, ridiculously well-endowed Israeli Mossad agent, who, when not playing hackysack on the beach and grilling in the nude, is secretly pining for a life as a Paul Mitchell hairdresser. When Zohan accepts an assignment to round-up a Palestinian terrorist, he takes the opportunity to fake his own death and head to New York to pursue his dream of making hair "silky smooth."
Funny premise? Yes. The problem is the execution. There are a couple of good sight gags that run throughout the film, but the plentiful big-penis jokes get old quickly. The movie takes a stab at making fun of and solving the 2,000-year-old grudge match between Israel and Palestine, but it comes off as hamhanded, poorly thought-out, forced and borderline offensive as the real thing has proved over the last 60 years. That's not to say that movies shouldn't mine the Middle East struggle for laughs, it would just have to be done a lot smarter than it is presented in Zohan, and it should probably never include perennially unfunny Rob Schneider. There are at least eight cameos in the movie, none of them used effectively. Particularly bad is the appearance of Mariah Carey–who seems completely incapable of self-parody required for a cameo.
Judd Apatow's credit as a co-writer may explain the movie's over-the-top raunch and length, and surely signals the fading Sandler's desire to retake the broad-comedy throne. But while the film will probably do well with Sandler's core fanbase and maybe even get them to say Zohan's "so let's go!" and "disco disco!" catchphrases for a couple of weeks, the uneven Zohan's not the brightest jewel in the comedian's crown.