You Don't Mess With The Zohan:
Year: 2008 Writer: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow Director: Dennis Duggan Budget: $75 million(estimated) Gross: just opened
i know You Don't Mess With The Zohan doesn't fit the Filmed But Not Forgotten framework (i am assuming it is going to make a lot of money), but we are starting a new feature at the podcast this summer called "1 and 1" - wherein i see and discuss a big summer movie and at the same time also an FBNF worthy film that relates to it in some way, which in this case is adam sandler....
Punch-Drunk Love. wow! i had forgotten how great this film was. i remember seeing it in theater and liking it, but i hadn't seen it since and had always remembered it as p.t. anderson's third best film after Boogie Nights and Magnolia (and now we have There Will Be Blood to add to that list). but, whereas that makes it sound good but lesser, that couldn't be further from the truth. this is a great film.
i honestly don't know where to begin with the movie. p.t. is just incredible. no one uses the camera and creates a feel for a film like he does. on one end he uses lots of natural light, isn't worried about back lighting or lens flare, and on the other hand the staging and framing of the scenes and shots is spectacular.
there are so many examples of how he frames the commotion and stages some of the frantic scenes with characters coming on and out of frame and the camera motion and the frantic music building it up perfectly, but the one shot i want to mention is the opposite of that:
there is a scene that takes place in barry egan's (adam sandler) apartment where he is calling a phone sex line just looking for someone to talk to. the scene is probably a good 5-10 minutes long and it is all, unless i missed a cut or two, one long shot. but that's not all. there is one beautiful moment when barry has just given the service all his info and his number so that a girl can call him back and has hung up the phone and is waiting. he is sitting with the phone next to him on the table and he is framed on the left-hand side of the frame. the camera sits like that for a few seconds longer then one would expect (making us think that the shot is to stay that way until he gets called back). however, after the delay the camera pans left now framing him on the right-hand side of the shot. we stay like this for a few seconds and then the phone rings. it was simple and beautiful.
of course his cinematographer robert elswit deserves a mention when talking about the way the film was shot. they have worked together on every film p.t. has made going back to his first, Hard Eight, and man do they work well together to create some of the most cinematically impressive films ever.
besides getting greatness from his director of photography, p.t. also seems to know how to get the best from his actors as well. how many directors would have trusted mark whalberg to carry a film like Boogie Nights or adam sandler to do the same with Punch-Drunk Love? not many, but p.t. did and it payed off, because sandler is perfect in the role. sure he is playing a bit of his characters from his more over the top comedies, but i think that was the point. anderson knew what sandler would bring to the film based on what people knew of him and his general roles and he used that to his advantage.
the only problem with that is that people who came to the movie expecting an adam sandler movie didn't get one, or at least not one like they might have been expecting, which could be the reason the film didn't do much box office business.
it won anderson the best director prize at cannes, got a palm d'or nomination and got sandler a golden globe nod as well. however, it never really made any kind of buss at the box office, but, maybe with the huge critical success of There Will Be Blood, some people will go back and check out this film.
as for You Don't Mess With The Zohan... this is actually a funny movie. i went in assuming i had seen all the funny parts in the preview, but i had a really good time at this one.
i was also a little worried because my favorite adam sandler is when he is being himself rather then a character with some voice and mannerisms. for example: i liked Happy Gilmore, really like The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy, but didn't like The Waterboy or Little Nicky. and in Zohan he is doing a character. this one works, however.
ya, ya, the story is predictable and you have all the points of the comedy/romantic comedy hit, but i didn't mind because i was laughing and having a good time. overall, the script from sandler, smigel and apatow is good, although a couple times it gets really awkward and a little embarrassing. in one scene in the park, sandler and the hot girl, who is from palestine, talk about how the violence in the middle east is bad and both sides are right and wrong and that the fighting needs to stop. i did cringe here at how corny the dialogue was. it felt like some bad high school paper. but, besides that i was quite happy.
you have loads of cameos (basically everyone who has ever been in an adam sandler comedy before shows up in this one: rob shneider should be kissing the ground sandler walks on) the supporting cast is funny - which isn't always the case - and if you like sandler then you get what you expect and you get it done well. as opposed to Punch-Drunk Love where you don't get what you expect but you get it done brilliantly.