MaltaToday | 24 August 2008

Eric German | Sunday, 24 August 2008

Hairstyling and perfect shagging

You don't mess with the Zohan (14) - ***

Zohan had the potential for a witty satire about the Israelis and the Palestinians agreement to always disagree and their seemingly eternal conflict. It’s played as broad satire but it does have its moments.
Zohan (Adam Sandler) is a Palestinian and an ace Israeli counter terrorist. But secretly he longs to be a hairdresser and during a confrontation with his nemesis, Israel’s The Phantom (John Turturro), he fakes his own death and goes to New York.
Calling himself Scrappy Coco, he finds nothing but failure and he ends up working for Palestinian hairdresser Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who’s doing poor business. He becomes an instant hit by spoiling the old women who comprise most of the customers, styling their hair and then shagging them in the back room.
Soon the modest salon is doing roaring business but a cabdriver (Rob Schneider) who has a grudge against him recognises him and tells the Phantom.
Zohan begins gaily on a beach where the idolised hero shows off his ‘sporting’ abilities to an adoring group of babes in a long sequence that has some good visual gags, an exotic holiday-like atmosphere and Sandler looks good in a beard and with curly hair.
When, despairing, Zohan asks his mother when the conflict will end. Her reply forms one of the film’s better jokes as she tells him, “They’ve been fighting for 2000 years so it can’t last much longer.”
The outlandish action which depicts Zohan’s exploits through CGI is amusing but some time after he arrives in New York the initial momentum is lost and the film almost grinds to a halt. The comedy picks up again when he takes care of his first customer.
The sequence has its gross moments but it’s also very funny. It’s packed with sexual innuendo, including some inspired use of Zohan’s tools, like the warm water jets, as erotic objects. It also helps a lot that the character actress playing his first customer is such a good one and so game.
Sandler flings himself into the role with wild gleeful abandon. He genuinely seems to be enjoying his work and this becomes catching as Sandler gives his best performance in a comedy and he’s undoubtedly the film’s greatest asset.
The script which Sandler co-wrote with two others often lets him down by insisting on flogging the same jokes long after they’ve died through repetition. There are countless penis jokes and I could have done with less pelvic thrusts from Sandler.
Then there are other precious comedy routines such as the disagreement between Palestinians and Israelis being conveyed through their different preferences of “bangable” women, with some choosing President’s George W. Bush’s wife while others prefer Hilary Clinton. And it continues until they’ve worked their way through the whole list of presidential candidates and more.
It’s in perfectly bad taste but there are times when you can’t help laughing. The length of one hour and 53 minutes, however, is suicidal.

Boycott this cheat

Journey to the Centre of the Earth (U) - *

This is not a remake but a cheap, silly sort of abbreviated sequel. Jules Verne’s book turns up among the box of belongings of Max, the missing brother, of Prof. Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser). They’re brought by his son, teenager Sean (Josh Hutcherson), when he goes to visit Trevor.
In it, he finds notes which would indicate that Max was right about his theory of what lay at the centre of the earth. In no time at all, Trevor and Sean try to follow Max’s trail, picking up a mountain guide, Hannah (Anita Briem), along the way.
“When does the adventure begin?” Sean sarcastically asks Trevor and it’s a question that I frequently asked myself. Trevor gives a lot of scientific-sounding lectures to the kids who always prove him wrong and he’s always falling down holes and such like with Hannah and Sean going to his rescue.
Even if you didn’t know that the film was made for children, it would become obvious since Fraser’s main function is to play stooge to straight guys Hannah and Sean. There’s also a lot of sentimental slush about Max and would-be male bonding.
What’s sorely missing is a legitimate plot to gain our interest and characters to feel concerned about.
With the exception of The Dark Knight, all this summer’s wannabe blockbusters have been infantile and disastrous and this is the worst so far.
It’s the first film directed by special effects whizz Eric Brevig so I’d have expected that the creatures and special effects would be top flight but they’re cheap unimaginative imitations of the very superior creations we’ve had in past films.
There are only three main characters, none of whom is worth bothering about, so the film is heavily dependent on creatures and effects. These are rationed in between volumes of dull and stupid dialogue and at times, they’re farcical. Suffice to say that when the trio is attacked by gigantic Piranha-like fish, they send them soaring away by hitting them with baseball bats.
Journey was made in 3-D and it was meant to be seen in 3-D. Possibly, that would have made it nonsense but fun. But KRS didn’t bother to get the 3-D prints. They got the flat 2-D versions, thereby robbing the film of any entertainment value it may have had.
This would never have happened if we had private exhibitors who would compete to give their patrons the best value for money. Competition is healthy and audiences would benefit a lot from it. But as KRS is a monopoly run by dictators, it dictates what audiences can and cannot see.
As KRS continues to show no respect for the people who are keeping it in business, when the management cheats audiences, as it’s done with this film, the only way to get some respect is to boycott such films and wait for the DVD. This will only cost 1.16 Euros to rent and in most cases, you wouldn’t be missing anything by seeing it on DVD.

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