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A clever, surprisingly funny comedy with a political point to make
on 7 August 2010
How do you milk comedy out of the Arab/Israeli tensions??? It's a bizarre subject to tackle, and risks being highly offensive to both sides due to the carnage that's been endured over decades.
As a result, Adam Sandler chooses to almost literally sit on the fence, having his Israeli superspy Zohan fall for a nice Arab girl so that our heroes have a cross-cultural Romeo & Juliet style forbidden romance going on. But with far cruder jokes.
Sandler's Zohan is a very likeable creation, a charming guy who just happens to be a whizz as Israel's top counter-terrorist operative, but who just wants to be a hairdresser. It's when this revelation comes out that he finally decides to up sticks and emigrate to the US, finding great humour in the culture clash, and Zohan's rampant sexuality in an industry where his main competitors are all gay. To his credit this is never milked in an offensive way but is genuinely funny, as are his ludicrous business practices and bad personal style. Comedy is even effectively wrung from the determination of his old Arab nemesis to hunt him down and finish their fued.
If there's one criticism to be levelled at 'Zohan', it's that it treads a little TOO carefully sometimes. In the American set part of the film, you won't hear either Arab or Israeli lament the tension between their countries with the phrase "There's been so much hate!" without immediately adding the line "On both sides!". To a degree this is admirable, and it's very much a film about bringing the two sides together, but not at the expense of the comedy. The humour does get dampened down towards the climax when it risks becoming politically dodgy, but for the rest of the film Sandler manages to make it a very funny and sweet natured movie. An enjoyable film with very likeable characters.