Monday, June 23, 2008

serious commentary... on the Zohan

Although A.O. Scott gives You Don't Mess with the Zohan a decent review, upon some reflection, the film seems more geared for audiences of the Idiocracy(not the audience that views the film...but the America that the film depicts). At first I though, oh yes, a politically serious-through-stupid-humor film for the mainstream that could, through its pop culture status, have some positive consequences for getting information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict out into the generic American public ear. But I wonder if this is both too optimistic an assumption of the viewer as well as of the politics of the film itself. The political-commentary-narrative in the film runs through the long-standing conflict with little background info and a lot of "inside" jokes (even in the Detroit metro area, which claims one of the largest Middle Eastern populations outside of the Middle East, many people don't know what hummus is; one character comments that the conflict has been going on for 2000 years now so it should be over soon...) and basically ends in an all-too-Hollywood generic climax of conflict between the two groups (on American soil, the Israelis and Palestinians have businesses across from each other on the same road, the big white-man developers set fires to the businesses to "fuel" hate between the groups); upon realizing the truth hate turns to love and hugs via the clearly announced realization that anyone who looks Middle Eastern is discriminated against by mainstream (white) America. Not unlike in Crash (though admittedly in a much more ridiculous way), we get the message that we shouldn't hate each other because of skin color but that we should all just get along.

And so, do we take it for what it's worth? Sandler clearly has some personal interest in the politics of the issue, and how many people can an Adam Sandler film reach and potentially "affect" with its politics? Or is it not too late to still consider ourselves a small step up the clever ladder from the Idiocracy mainstream and do mess with the Zohan by demanding he give us more: more substance, more creativity, more that goes beyond the same old crotch and sex jokes and still laugh and be held interested.

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