This preposterous comedy starring Adam Sandler and Emmanuelle Chriqui is much what has come to be expected of most of Sandler’s early summer release comedies. Although it is silly and slapstick, it does capture quite hilariously so many Israeli personality nuances. And the ubiquitous food staple—hummus—has a place in almost every scene.
But, this Romeo and Juliet-esque film does have an important message woven throughout: America presents the possibility for disparate groups to get along even when they may not be able to do so in their home environs. This is particularly true of the romantic relationship between the two lead actors (Sandler, who plays an Israeli macho commando turned New York hairdresser and Chriqui, who plays a Palestinian hairdresser who takes a risk on Sandler/Zohan, despite the fact that her brother is a terrorist and Zohan’s arch-enemy). While the film didn’t dwell much on religious differences, it was clearly a statement on the challenge of the political issues that keep Jews and Palestinians apart. The film tells us something that we at JOI already know: While intermarriage is rare in Israel between Jews and Arabs (be they Palestinian or of other political origin), it is increasing—and it certainly is increasing in the American Jewish community.
Zohan may be a comedy and it is filled with laughs. But it teaches us a serious lesson about the Big Tent which we call Judaism.