Tracy Bennett
In "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," Adam Sandler stars as Zohan, an Israeli commando who manages to fake his own death.

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN — * 1/2 — Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, violence, sex, profanity, nudity, slurs, brief drugs)

Early in his career, Adam Sandler got big laughs with dumb-funny skits on television's "Saturday Night Live" and in comedy hits such as "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore."

But aside from his occasional, more-serious departures, such as "Reign Over Me," his more recent films have been much dumber than they were funny. And "You Don't Mess With the Zohan"

is definitely dumb with a capital D.

For every joke that works in this often-poor-taste comedy, there's at least 10 that don't. And even the handful of workable jokes aren't really that funny.

Boasting a questionable accent, Sandler stars as the title character. Zohan is a highly trained fighter who works for the Israeli Mossad Secret Service agency but secretly wants to cut and style hair.

So while on a mission to capture — or maybe even kill — a Palestinian terrorist nicknamed the Phantom (John Turturro) — Zohan fakes his own death.

From there he heads to America, where he changes his hair and his name (to the even more unlikely Scrappy Coco). And he tries to get a job at a salon. Unfortunately, the only place desperate enough to hire him is a beauty shop run by a lovely Palestinian named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui).

At first, Zohan is reduced to sweeping up hair for no pay. But once Dalia gives him a chance to cut hair, he proves to be quite talented — and quite popular, which is a boon to her struggling salon.

Dennis Dugan's direction is flat, and the script (co-written by Sandler and Robert Smigel) relies on tired Middle East stereotypes and other expected jokes (a particularly unfunny hummus bit is beaten to death).

And again, Sandler has shown some spark in more dramatic roles, so it's disappointing to see him return to his one-note "form."

As expected, old Sandler pals Rob Schneider and Kevin Nealon show up in support. Others include veterans Lainie Kazan, Shelley Berman, Charlotte Rae, ring announcer Michael Buffer, and musicians Dave Matthews and Mariah Carey.

"You Don't Mess With the Zohan" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual and scatological humor (references and sight gags), supposedly comic violence (combat, gunplay, vehicular and explosive mayhem), simulated sex and other sexual contact (mostly overheard), scattered profanity, male and partial female nudity, derogatory slurs (based on race, ethnicity and sexual preference) and some brief drug references. Running time: 118 minutes.


E-mail: [email protected]