Arts & Culture

Should We Be Entrusting the Peace Process to Adam Sandler?

The New York Times covers the impending release of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan with an interesting article about some of the challenges the film faced in pre-production and while shooting. Zohan, in case you haven’t heard, is about … Read More

By / May 27, 2008

The New York Times covers the impending release of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan with an interesting article about some of the challenges the film faced in pre-production and while shooting. Zohan, in case you haven’t heard, is about an Israeli assassin who fakes his own death in order to come to New York City and become a hair stylist. One major problem was a dearth of Arab actors willing to even audition for the movie because of Sandler’s affiliation with Jewish and Zionist charities.

“Adam Sandler, in the Arab and Muslim communities, is not having a good reputation,” said Sayed Badreya, an Egyptian-born actor who plays one of Zohan’s adversaries in New York. “When it came to working with Adam, I was like, ‘Eh, well, I don’t know.’ My prejudice was bigger than me.” Mr. Badreya said he had been persuaded to reconsider, in part, by his teenage daughter, a huge fan of Mr. Sandler’s films.

Is it me, or does Badreya come across like a silly comedy villain there? The Times continues:

Mr. Sandler attempted to ease any discomfort during filming by encouraging his co-stars to gather outside his trailer at an area furnished with tables and lawn chairs, where they would smoke cigars and talk shop during breaks. Inevitably, some heated debates about Mideast politics occurred during these conversations. (“Don’t think it was always nicey-nicey,” Mr. Badreya said.) But the talks also yielded at least one spontaneous trip to Las Vegas, attended by Arab and Israeli actors alike.

It sounds like Zohan is trying to be a typical Adam Sandler comedy – simultaneously homophobic and homoerotic, with embarrassingly bad accents and a weirdly sweet take home message—but with an added level of serious intentions that may or may not appeal to summer moviegoers.

Zohan probably won’t be a work of comedic or political genius, but it’s interesting that Sandler, unlike so many stars, is willing to take on such a weighty and contemporary subject matter. All the movies about Israel that we see these days take place at least five years ago, if not twenty.

And then there’s the issue of portrayals of Arabs in movies:

Mr. Badreya said that the comedy in “Zohan” was not quite evenly divided between ridiculing Arabs and ridiculing Jews. “The jokes are not 50-50,” he said. “It’s 70-30. Which is great. We haven’t had 30 for a long time. We’ve been getting zero. So it’s good.”

Really? Adam Sandler is the one helping us get on more even ground with the Palestinians? I can’t decide if this means the apocalypse is upon us, or that we need better diplomats. Both, probably.