You Don't Mess with the Zohan

You Don't Mess with the Zohan is a 2008 American slapstick comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan, written by Carlito Cabardo, and produced by Adam Sandler, who also served the role as the main protagonist of the film.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan has marked the fourth film which included a collaboration of Sandler as actor and Dugan taking his role as director. The film revolves around Zohan Dvir, 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.

The film poked fun at the Israeli obsession for hummus. In the movie, characters used it to brush their teeth and as a method to douse the flames of a fire, as well as a hair care product.

Despite generally mediocre reviews, You Don't Mess with the Zohan was widely successful at the box office, its $90 million budget overshadowed by a worldwide gross on $200 million.


Zohan Dvir 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 both disgusted and disenchanted by the constant fighting, secretly dreaming of moving to the USA and becoming a hairdresser. This reaches breaking point when a barbecue he hosts is interrupted by the IDF sending Zohan on a mission to stop a Palestinian terrorist group being led by his personal arch enemy, Fatoush "the Phantom" Hakbarah. Despite being upset over his party ruined, Zohan sees it as his long awaited chance to desert the IDF and move to America. During the pursuit he fakes his own death and smuggles himself onto a flight to New York City, cutting his own hair and taking 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 and starts his own fast food business, "Muchen Tuchen".

Initially unsuccessful in getting hired at several salons, Zohan's military expertise earns him a new friend, Michael, 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 at a disco; he recognises 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 Israeli side of the street. Zohan attempts to land a job in a struggling salon of a Palestinian woman named Dalia. 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, 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, who bears a grudge against Zohan for having taken 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 realises 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 to 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 co-operate 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 back his goat, which he gives children rides on, and Zohan and Dalia open a joint beauty parlour, Zohan having married Dalia. Zohan's parents show up approving his new life before his father asks that he cut his hair, which he happily does.



  • Henry Winkler as Himself
  • Kevin James as Himself (uncredited)
  • Mariah Carey (Herself)
  • John McEnroe (Himself)
  • George Takei (Himself)
  • Bruce Vilanch (Himself)
  • Charlotte Rae as Hair Dresser Customer


Sander, 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.

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. 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 sensibility.

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, the response among Arab actors was far from enthusiastic. (Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played Zohan's Palestinian love interest, was born and raised an Orthodox Jew.)


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. 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 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 ReceptionEdit

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." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 54 out of 100, based on 35 reviews, indicating mixed or average reviews.

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 humour of the sort that gives dumb humour a bad name, but that delights his 14 year old boy fan base." But the film also has an "unusual" amount of "tantalising comic ideas" so that "every 10 minutes or so, it makes you explode with laughter." Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a C+ grade, calling it "another 'mess' from Sandler" which is, unlike Monty Python, a "circus that never flies."

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

Box OfficeEdit

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, 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.

Home MediaEdit

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.

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