The Happening.

Starring Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Rob Schneider and Emmanuelle Chriqui. Directed by Dennis Dugan.
Running Time: 113mins
Rated: Rated M (frequent sexual references, coarse language)
Some people think Adam Sandler is funny. Then there is the rest of the civilised world. The first group may see 'You Don't Mess With the Zohan' as a riotously funny spoof of Middle Eastern racial conflicts, with Sandler playing an Israeli counter-terrorist endowed with superhuman powers who, tired of the runaround with Hezbollah & Co, sneaks off to New York. There he hopes to lose his identity by pretending to be an Australian/Tibetan and to fulfil his secret ambition to become a hair stylist.

To the rest of us (the majority, one hopes!), the film is a torturous string of witless scenes and feeble-minded sight gags, heavily reliant on crude sexual references and a succession of unfathomable jokes about hummus.

Proceedings are directed by Dennis Dugan (last year's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) but Sandler must shoulder all responsibility for the film because, in addition to being the star, he is both producer and the co-writer with Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story) and Robert Smigel.

With a moustache and thick accent, Sandler's Zohan invites comparison with the execrable Borat, the character invented by Sacha Baron Cohen. The two run neck-and-neck in the non-PC humour stakes, but amid all the tasteless Zohan shenanigans there is a hint of a moral message: the New York street on which Zohan finds himself has shops owned by Jews on one side and Palestinian businesses on the other, and the denouement played out there affirms somewhat heavy-handedly that people can learn to get along if they have half a mind.

Terrorism is a serious threat to the world and in many ways is no laughing matter, but we should acknowledge that humour has the potential to defuse anger and hold prejudice up to ridicule. It is just a pity that this movie has to be so ham-fisted (non-kosher pun intended) about it.

That splendid actor John Turturro is wasted as Zohan's nemesis, a Palestinian terrorist called The Phantom, Lainie Kazan appears as one of the mature women who crave Zohan's sexual services, and there are cameo bits by Mariah Carey, Shelley Berman and tennis star John McEnroe.
It is not recommended to the sophisticated moviegoer, but if you are amused by vomiting, urination and kicking a cat around like a football, then 'You Don't Mess With the Zohan' may be your kind of show.

Sony Pictures Out June 19

Jim Murphy is an associate with the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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