You Don't Mess with the Zohan, 12A
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, PG
Offensive? Puerile? Well, it made me laugh ...
Sunday 17 August 2008
One of this year's most mystifying questions is why Mike Myers attempted a comeback with The Love Guru, a silly self-indulgence in which the star played a borderline racist caricature who bowls women over with his wacky foreign accent and even wackier hairdo. Now we know of one possible answer: maybe Adam Sandler paid him to do it. Sandler's own new film could be described in exactly the same terms, but after The Love Guru, You Don't Mess with the Zohan feels like a masterpiece.
Sandler is Zohan Dvir, a Mossad James Bond who can beat up a dozen Palestinians with both hands tied behind his back. But while Zohan loves Israel almost as much as he loves hummus, disco dancing and Mariah Carey, he's tired of violence. Faking his own death during a fight with his arch-enemy, the Phantom (John Turturro), he begins a new life as a hair stylist and gigolo in New York.
Bearing in mind that it sounds like the most disastrous comedy concept in cinema history, it's remarkable how easily Don't Mess with the Zohan turns its contentious subject matter into feel-good fun. It probably helps that Judd Apatow is one of the co-writers. Tonally, the film has more in common with the anarchic farces which Apatow makes with Will Ferrell than it has with Sandler's usual ego trips, and there are so many nonsensical gags crammed in that, although half of them fall flat, there are still plenty that make you laugh, however guiltily. It's puerile stuff, and like any film involving Apatow, it would benefit from a 15-minute trim. But if you see only one ridiculous star vehicle this summer, Zohan it is.
There was a time when the arrival of every new animated film was a big event, and the arrival of a new Star Wars film was even bigger, but Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a minor release that could have been subtitled "Wait for the DVD". Essentially a pilot for a cartoon series which is due on TV next year, it's a breathless cavalcade of duels and battles, robots and ray-guns. Primary school-age fans of the franchise should love it, but it doesn't hold up as a film in its own right, even by Star Wars standards.
The story slots in between Episode Two and Episode Three of the prequels. Jabba the Hutt's son has been kidnapped, perhaps by the nefarious Count Dooku, so two Jedi knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, are sent to recover him.
Only three actors from the live-action Star Wars films lend their voices – Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels and Samuel L Jackson – so when Obi-Wan is on screen, we have an actor impersonating Ewan McGregor impersonating Alec Guinness. As for the animation, it's well below Pixar's level: the interstellar dog fights are spectacular, but the characters are like Gerry Anderson marionettes. Not for the first time in a Star Wars film, the robots are more human than the humans. Still, at least the animated Anakin is less annoying than either of the actors who played him in the flesh.
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