You Don't Mess with the Zohan

You Don't Mess with the Zohan
You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Produced by
Written by
Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Michael Barrett
Editing by Tom Costain
  • Relativity Media
  • Happy Madison Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) June 6, 2008 (2008-06-06)
Running time 117 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Box office $201,802,891[1]

You Don't Mess with the Zohan is a 2008 American comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan, written by Carlito Cabardo, and produced by and starring Adam Sandler. This is the fourth film which has starred Sandler and has been directed by Dugan. The film is about Zohan Dvir (Hebrew: זוהן דביר‎), an Israeli counter-terrorist army commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream of becoming a hairstylist in New York City. The story was written by Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, and Robert Smigel. It was released on June 6, 2008 in the US and on August 15, 2008 in the UK.



Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) is a superhuman but kind-hearted Israeli counter terrorist and the finest and most respected soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. However, Zohan has become bored and sickened by the constant fighting, secretly dreaming of moving to the USA and becoming a hairdresser. Zohan goes on a mission to stop a Palestinian terrorist group being led by his personal arch-enemy, Fatoush "the Phantom" Hakbarah (John Turturro). During the pursuit he fakes his own death, and smuggles himself onto a flight to New York City, cutting his own hair and takes the alias "Scrappy Coco" (the names of two dogs he shared the flight with) while claiming that he is "Half Australian, Half Mount Everest." Meanwhile the Phantom becomes incredibly rich and famous for supposedly killing Zohan, gaining his own fast food business.

Initially unsuccessful in getting hired at several salons, Zohan's military expertise earns him a new friend, Michael (Nick Swardson), who gives him a place to stay. However, Michael starts to freak out when he finds Zohan having sex with his mother. Zohan encounters a fellow Israeli named Oori (Ido Mosseri) at a disco; he recognizes Zohan but agrees to keep his identity a secret. Oori takes him to a block in lower Manhattan filled with Middle Eastern Americans, who are split between a Palestinian side and an Israeli side of the street. Zohan attempts to land a job in a struggling salon of a Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). After first only allowing Zohan to sweep floors for free, she eventually allows him to be a stylist after he pleases a senior lady with a satisfactory haircut and back room sexual service. Zohan's reputation spreads instantly among the elderly women of lower Manhattan. Dalia's business booms, upsetting Grant Walbridge (Michael Buffer), a corporate magnate who has been trying to force out all the local tenants on the block so that he can build a mall.

Zohan is identified by a Palestinian cab driver named Salim (Rob Schneider), who bears a grudge against Zohan for taking his goat away. Salim convinces his friends to help him kill Zohan, but he is forced after a failed bomb attempt to contact Phantom. Salim attempts to blackmail Phantom, but he ends up getting the stiff end of the deal as he convinces Phantom to visit New York to find Zohan. Meanwhile, Zohan realizes that he has fallen in love with Dalia, and comes clean to Michael and his mother about his true identity, before meeting Dalia. Dalia rejects Zohan after he reveals he was formerly an Israeli counter-terrorist operative. Zohan decides to leave Dalia and confront Phantom in a championship Hacky Sack game sponsored by Walbridge. Zohan's fight is cut short with sudden news of the Middle Eastern block being attacked, and he quickly leaves.

Zohan arrives and calms the Israelis and Palestinians, who each blame the other for the violence, while making peace with Salim. Phantom then appears and confronts Zohan, but Zohan refuses to fight. Dalia appears, revealing that she is Phantom's sister, and convinces her brother to cooperate with Zohan against the arsonists, revealed to be white racist rednecks hired by Walbridge to instigate an inter-ethnic riot so he can get his new mall in the aftermath. As Zohan and Phantom work to save the block, the latter admits that he always wanted to be a shoe salesman rather than a terrorist. Although the rednecks are defeated and Walbridge sent to jail, Phantom accidentally destroys all of the shops on the block. However, with the Israelis and the Palestinians united, the block is transformed into a collectively owned mall called the Peace and Brotherhood Fire Insurance Mall. Phantom opens a shoe store in the mall, Salim gets a new goat which he gives children rides on, and Zohan and Dalia open a joint beauty parlor, Zohan having married Dalia. Zohan's parents show up approving his new life before asking that he cut their hair, which he happily does.




Filming of one of the scenes while in Mexico

Sandler, Robert Smigel, and Judd Apatow wrote the first draft of the script in 2000, but the movie was delayed after the events of 9/11 because those involved felt that the subject would be too sensitive. Apatow left the project after the first draft in 2000 to work on his show Undeclared and that he has, for the most part, not been involved in the project since.[2]

The film is based in part on the story of Nezi Arbib, an Israeli soldier who after his service moved to southern California and opened a hair salon. Sandler trained with Arbib and his brothers, also former soldiers, for two weeks to learn hairstyling and work with clients.[3] The movie features elements that first appeared in the SNL sketches "Sabra Shopping Network" and "Sabra Price is Right," which starred Tom Hanks and were written by Robert Smigel. They originated lines such as 'Sony guts' and 'Disco, Disco, good, good'. The first sketch is also notable for featuring one of Adam Sandler's first (uncredited) television appearances while the second featured Sandler, Schneider, Smigel and Kevin Nealon in supporting parts.

Robert Smigel worked with Sandler on past films including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Little Nicky, but this was the first time in which he was credited for helping to write the script. He was also an executive producer on the film which allowed him to further contribute to the movie's comedic sensilbility.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented that the movie was known in Hollywood circles as "the Israeli movie." Haaretz also noted that while "Israeli actors were rushing to audition [for the movie], the response among Arab actors was far from enthusiastic.[4] (Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played Zohan's Palestinian love interest, was born and raised an Orthodox Jew.[5]) One possible explanation is that Sandler, who is known as a patron of causes for Israel, is not so popular in the Arab world.[citation needed]

A recurring joke in the film is the popularity of hummus among Israelis; characters eat it using household items, use it to brush their teeth, douse the flames of a fire,[6][7] as well as a hair care product.[8]


The score to the film was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. He recorded his score with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage in April 2008.[9] The soundtrack contains many songs in Hebrew, mostly by the popular Israeli band Hadag Nahash, the Psychedelic Trance duo Infected Mushroom, and Dana International. The film features "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Angel City Remix)" by Bananarama, the Ace of Base songs "Hallo Hallo" and "Beautiful Life", the Rockwell song Somebody's Watching Me and Mariah Carey songs "Fantasy" and "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time".

The soundtrack contains (near the end) music re-arranged for the movie by Julius Dobos, based on the song "Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja" from the Bollywood movie Disco Dancer (1982) starring Mithun Chakraborty.


Critical reception

The film opened to mixed to negative reviews. In June 2008, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 36% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 138 reviews — with the consensus that the film "features intermittent laughs, and will please Sandler diehards, but after a while the leaky premise wears thin."[10] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 54 out of 100, based on 35 reviews—indicating mixed or average reviews.[11]

John Podhoretz, in The Weekly Standard, wrote that the movie has a "mess" of a plot and features, "as usual for Sandler, plenty of dumb humor of the sort that gives dumb humor a bad name, but that delights his 14-year-old-boy fan base." But the film also has an "unusual" amount of "tantalizing comic ideas" so that "every 10 minutes or so, it makes you explode with laughter."[5] Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a C+ grade, calling it "another 'mess' from Sandler" which is, unlike Monty Python, a "circus that never flies."[12]

On the positive side, Time claimed the film to be a "laff scuffle,"[13] and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars.[14] David Edelstein of New York Magazine went as far as to say "Adam Sandler is mesmerizing,"[15] and A.O Scott of The New York Times said it was "the finest post-Zionist action-hairdressing sex comedy I have ever seen."[16]

It was accused of racism and prejudiced stereotypes of Arabs and Palestinians[17][18][19]

Despite the mixed reception by critics, the film managed to develop a niche following of fans, and was the fourth most downloaded movie for 2008 on The Pirate Bay.[20]

Box office

You Don't Mess with the Zohan grossed $38 million on its opening weekend, ranked second behind Kung Fu Panda. As of September 7, 2008 (2008 -09-07), it reached a domestic tally of $100,018,837, continuing Sandler's streak of making over $100 million at the domestic box office. The film grossed $201,802,891 worldwide.[1]

Home media

The film was released on DVD on October 7, 2008 with a 2-disc unrated edition, a single-disc unrated edition, and a theatrical edition, as well as a Blu-ray edition and UMD for PSP. It has sold over 1.2 million DVD units gathering revenue of $25.1 million.[1]


Rumours flared that there may be a sequel to Zohan, possibly named Zohan: The Return of the Phantom, in response to Adam Sandler posting on a fansite.


  1. ^ a b c You Don't Mess With the Zohan – Box Office Data
  2. ^ Rabin, Nathan (June 2, 2008). "Interview: Robert Smigel". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  3. ^ "Real-Life 'Zohan' Calls San Diego Home". 2008-06-04. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ Gilad Halpern (May 25, 2008). "'Shampoo' meets 'Munich': New Adam Sandler film stars Mossad hit man turned hairdresser". Haaretz. 
  5. ^ a b Podhoretz, John (June 16, 2008). "Pushtak to Shove: Adam Sandler attacks the Middle East". The Weekly Standard 13 (38). Retrieved June 13, 2008. 
  6. ^ Marks, Gil (2010), Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 269–271
  7. ^ ‘Zohan’ Film Styles a New Israeli Hero, Rebecca Spence. The Forward. June 12, 2008
  8. ^ The Commentator: Is Adam Sandler Our Greatest Jewish Mind?, Daniel Treiman. The Forward. June 19, 2008
  9. ^ Dan Goldwasser (2008-04-20). "Rupert Gregson-Williams scores You Don't Mess with the Zohan". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  10. ^ You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Metacritic
  12. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum (June 13, 2008). "Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)". Entertainment Weekly (997).,,20204420,00.html. 
  13. ^ Richard Schickel (June 5, 2008). "Zohan: Laff Scuffle, Not Laff Riot". Time.,8599,1812186,00.html. 
  14. ^ Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (PG-13). Roger Ebert. June 6, 2008.
  15. ^ David Edelstein (June 5, 2008). [ "Israeli Stud, Aspiring Hairdresser"]. New York Magazine. 
  16. ^ A.O Scott (June 6, 2008). "Watch Out, He’s Packing a Blow-Dryer". The New York Times. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of 2008

External links

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