You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Adam Sandler Judd Apatow Emmanuelle Chriqui
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
With the zohan.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDennis Dugan
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byAdam Sandler
Music byRupert Gregson-Williams
CinematographyMichael Barrett
Edited byTom Costain
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • June 6, 2008 (2008-06-06)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[2]
Box office$204.3 million[2]

You Don't Mess with the Zohan is a 2008 American action black comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan and produced by Adam Sandler, who also starred in the film. It was the fourth film that included a collaboration of Sandler as actor and Dugan as director. The film revolves around Zohan Dvir (Hebrew: זוהן דביר‎), an Israeli army counterterrorist commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream of becoming a hairstylist in New York City. The story was written by Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, and Robert Smigel. It was released on June 6, 2008, in the US and on August 15, 2008, in the UK. The film grossed $204.3 million worldwide from a $90 million budget.[2]


Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) is a superhuman Israeli counter-terrorist and is the most feared and respected soldier of the Israel Defense Forces. Despite his constant success however, he has grown tired of the everlasting conflicts in his country and dreams of becoming a hairstylist at Paul Mitchell's in the United States. He finally admits to his parents his desire to cut hair, but they make fun of him. During his next mission against a Palestinian terrorist group led by his arch-enemy, superhuman Fatoush "Phantom" Hakbarah (John Turturro), Zohan fakes his own death and smuggles himself onto a plane to New York City, cuts his hair, and adopts the alias "Scrappy Coco" after two dogs (Scrappy and Coco) whom he shared the flight with. Following his "success" at killing Zohan, Phantom opens a restaurant chain called Phantom Muchentuchen.

After his arrival in the United States, Zohan immediately goes to Paul Mitchell to ask for a job. The stylists there laugh at him. He tries other salons but is also refused by other salons due to his lack of experience. Zohan befriends Michael (Nick Swardson) after defending him against a bullying motorist, and is taken in by him and his mother, Gail (Lainie Kazan). Michael is shocked to walk in on Zohan and his mother having sex. Zohan tells him "it's natural!" and it's clear Zohan loves the ladies.

Zohan then meets a fellow Israeli named Oori (Ido Mosseri), who owns an electronics store, at a disco; Oori recognizes Zohan but vows to keep his identity a secret. Zohan is taken by Oori to an area in lower Manhattan populated with Middle Eastern immigrants, including Palestinians and Israelis. Zohan attempts to land a job in a struggling salon of a Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), but Dalia only allows Zohan to sweep the floors. But when one of her stylists unexpectedly quits, leaving her customers high and dry, one of the customers wants Zohan to cut her hair. He puts on a sexy shampoo bowl show and gives her an exceptional haircut, with a back room sex bonus. Zohan's reputation spreads rapidly among the elderly women of lower Manhattan, causing Dalia's business to prosper, which upsets Grant Walbridge (Michael Buffer), a corporate magnate who has been trying to buy out all the local tenants on the block so that he can build a rollercoaster mall.

Zohan is eventually identified by a Palestinian cab driver named Salim (Rob Schneider), who bears a grudge against Zohan for having taken his goat away in Palestine because Salim spat on him. Salim convinces his friends, Hamdi and Nasi, to help him kill Zohan, but after several failed attempts they are forced to contact Phantom and convince him to visit New York to find Zohan. Meanwhile, Zohan has fallen in love with Dalia and comes clean to her, Michael and Gail about his true identity. After Dalia rejects Zohan for his counterterrorist background, Zohan decides to leave her to protect her, and confronts Phantom in a championship Hacky Sack game sponsored by Walbridge. Zohan's fight is cut short with sudden news of the Middle Eastern neighborhood block being attacked, and he quickly departs.

At the scene of the fire, Zohan calms the Israelis and Palestinians, who each blame the other for the violence, and makes peace with Salim. Phantom then appears and confronts Zohan, but Zohan refuses to fight. Dalia appears, revealing that she is Phantom's sister, and convinces her brother to cooperate with Zohan against the arsonists, revealed to be racist rednecks hired by Walbridge to instigate an inter-ethnic riot so he can get his new mall in the aftermath. As Zohan and Phantom work to save the block, Phantom admits that he always wanted to be a shoe salesman rather than a terrorist. Although the rednecks are defeated and Walbridge is jailed, the overexcited Phantom accidentally destroys all of the shops on the block with his powers.

With the Israelis and Palestinians united, the block is rebuilt and transformed into a collectively owned mall. Phantom opens a shoe shop there; Oori relocates his electronics shop to the mall; Salim gets back his goat (and starts a goat ride business); and Zohan and Dalia, having now married, open a beauty salon together. In the end, Zohan's parents, initially unsupportive of his dream to be a hairdresser, show up, approving of his new job and lifestyle before his father requests that he cut his hair, which Zohan happily does.


  • Adam Sandler as Zohanele "Zohan" Dvir/Scrappy Coco, A Superhuman counter terrorist who aspires to be a stylist, and fakes his death to pursue his dream
  • John Turturro as Fatoush "Phantom" Hakbarah, Another Superhuman counter terrorist and Zohan's rival, who, after Zohan's supposed death, opens a chain of kebab Muchentuchen restaurants named "Phantom Muchentuchen". He aspires to sell shoes
  • Emmanuelle Chriqui as Dalia Hakbarah, the owner of a hair salon, who is revealed to be Phantom's sister
  • Nick Swardson as Michael Klayman, a tenant who invites Zohan to stay over after he saves him from supposed bullies. He disagrees with his tactics oftentimes
  • Lainie Kazan as Gail Klayman, Michael's mom, whom Zohan starts a sexual relationship with
  • Ido Mosseri as Oori Shulimson, the Israeli owner of the eletronics shop "Going out of business", who helps Zohan pursue his dream
  • Rob Schneider as Salim Yousfobdal, A taxi driver who holds a vendetta against Zohan after he stole his goat, which Salim presumes is dead, but in reality, Zohan took it in as a pet
  • Dave Matthews as James T. O'Skanlon, the white supremacist whom Grant Walbridge hires to burn down the Isrealian shops
  • Michael Buffer as Grant Walbridge, the villain, a landowner who aspires to open a rollar coaster mall, and tries to force the tenants (Oori, Dalia, etc) out of the land
  • Sayed Badreya as Hamdi, Salim's friend and a fellow taxi driver
  • Daoud Heidami as Nasi, Salim's other friend who works at a convenience stand
  • Kevin Nealon as Kevin, the community watch member whom Zohan and Michael worked with
  • Robert Smigel as Yosi, Works at Oori's store
  • Dina Doronne as Mrs. Dvir, Zohan's mother
  • Shelley Berman as Mr. Dvir, Zohan's father
  • John Paul DeJoria as Paul Mitchell, playing a Alternate version of Paul Mitchell. Dejoria was one of the original founders of the Paul Mitchell Salon. In this verison, Paul Mitchell is still alive and opened the chain alone
  • Alec Mapa as Claude, Works at Dalia's hair salon, and gets embarrassed when Zohan tries to give advice to him
  • Ahmed Ahmed as Waleed, works a clothes store on the Israeli street, and whom the fellow shop owners say looks "Mexican"
  • Ben Wise as Yitzhak, a fellow shop owner
  • Joseph Marshak as Pinchas, fellow shop owner
  • Guri Weinberg as Aharon, fellow shop owner
  • Danny A. Abeckaser as Ze'ev, works at Oori's shop
  • Ido Ezra as Hassan, fellow shop owner
  • Mousa Kraish as Bashir, fellow shop owner
  • Roni Levi as Ephraim, fellow shop owner
  • Mike Iorio as Bouncer
  • Reuven Bar-Yotam as Levi, fellow shop owner
  • Shulie Cowen as Debbie, Salim's customer, who gets angered due to the fact that Salim works while he drives
  • Maysoon Zayid as Nadira, Dalia's former stylist who left for unknown reasons
  • Helen Siff as Mrs. Skitzer, a customer who goes to Dalia's salon
  • Cynthia Frost as Mrs. Paulson, a customer who goes to Dalia's salon
  • Lina So as Scarlett Keh, Paul Mitchell's salon receptionist
  • Barbara Ann Davison as Scrappy and Coco's owner
  • Nicole Bennett as Walbridge's girlfriend, who Walbridge claims to have the "Perfect butt to breast ratio"
  • Lily Javaherpour as Inaz, Hamdi's daughter
  • Kristina Haddad as Hamdi's wife
  • Larry Marko as Phantom's trainer


Filming of one of the scenes while in Mexico

Sandler, Robert Smigel, and Judd Apatow wrote the first draft of the script in 2000, but the movie was delayed after the events of 9/11 because those involved felt that the subject would be too sensitive. Apatow left the project after the first draft in 2000 to work on his show Undeclared and had, for the most part, not been involved in the project since.[3] The film is based in part on the story of Nezi Arbib, an Israeli soldier who after his service moved to southern California and opened a hair salon. Sandler trained with Arbib and his brothers, also former soldiers, for two weeks to learn hairstyling and work with clients.[4] The movie features elements that first appeared in the SNL sketches "Sabra Shopping Network" and "Sabra Price Is Right," which starred Tom Hanks and were written by Robert Smigel. They originated lines such as 'Sony guts' and 'Disco, Disco, good, good'. The first sketch is also notable for featuring one of Adam Sandler's first (uncredited) television appearances while the second featured Sandler, Schneider, Smigel and Kevin Nealon in supporting parts. Robert Smigel worked with Sandler on past films including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Little Nicky, but this was the first time in which he was credited for helping to write the script. He was also an executive producer on the film which allowed him to further contribute to the movie's comedic sensibility. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented that the movie was known in Hollywood circles as "the Israeli movie." Haaretz also noted that while "Israeli actors were rushing to audition [for the movie]," the response among Arab actors was far from enthusiastic.[5] (Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played Zohan's Palestinian love interest, was raised as an Orthodox Jew.[6]) The film poked fun at the popularity of hummus in Israeli culture. In the movie, characters used it to brush their teeth and as a method to douse the flames of a fire,[7][8] as well as a hair care product.[9]


The score to the film was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. He recorded his score with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage in April 2008.[10] The soundtrack contains many songs in Hebrew, mostly by the popular Israeli band Hadag Nahash, the psychedelic trance duo Infected Mushroom, and Dana International. The film features "Strip" by Adam Ant, "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango) (Angel City Remix)" by Bananarama, the Ace of Base songs "Hallo Hallo" and "Beautiful Life", the Rockwell song Somebody's Watching Me and Mariah Carey songs Fantasy and "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time".

The soundtrack contains (near the end) music re-arranged for the movie by Julius Dobos, based on the song "Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja" from the Bollywood movie Disco Dancer (1982) starring Mithun Chakraborty.


Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 37% based on 188 reviews; the site's consensus is that the film "features intermittent laughs, and will please Sandler diehards, but after a while the leaky premise wears thin."[11] Metacritic gives the film a rating of 54 out of 100, based on 37 reviews—indicating mixed or average reviews.[12]

John Podhoretz, in The Weekly Standard, wrote that the movie has a "mess" of a plot and features, "as usual for Sandler, plenty of dumb humor of the sort that gives dumb humor a bad name, but that delights his 14-year-old-boy fan base." But the film also has an "unusual" amount of "tantalizing comic ideas" so that "every 10 minutes or so, it makes you explode with laughter."[6] Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a C+ grade, calling it "another 'mess' from Sandler" which is, unlike Monty Python, a "circus that never flies."[13]

On the positive side, Time claimed the film to be a "laff scuffle,"[14] and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars.[15] David Edelstein of New York Magazine went as far as to say "Adam Sandler is mesmerizing,"[16] and A.O. Scott of The New York Times said it was "the finest post-Zionist action-hairdressing sex comedy I have ever seen."[17]

Box office

You Don't Mess with the Zohan grossed $38 million on its opening weekend, ranked second behind Kung Fu Panda. As of September 7, 2008, it reached a US tally of $100 million. The film grossed $204.3 million worldwide.[2]

Home media

The film was released on DVD on October 7, 2008, with a 2-disc unrated edition, a single-disc unrated edition, and a theatrical edition, as well as a Blu-ray edition and UMD for PSP. It has sold over 1.2 million DVD units gathering revenue of $25.1 million.[2]


  1. ^ "You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e "You Don't Mess With the Zohan". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  3. ^ Rabin, Nathan (June 2, 2008). "Interview: Robert Smigel". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
  4. ^ "Real-Life 'Zohan' Calls San Diego Home". 2008-06-04. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  5. ^ Gilad Halpern (May 25, 2008). "'Shampoo' meets 'Munich': New Adam Sandler film stars Mossad hit man turned hairdresser". Haaretz.
  6. ^ a b Podhoretz, John (June 16, 2008). "Pushtak to Shove: Adam Sandler attacks the Middle East". The Weekly Standard. 13 (38). Retrieved June 13, 2008.
  7. ^ Marks, Gil (2010), Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and Sons, pp. 269–271
  8. ^ ‘Zohan’ Film Styles a New Israeli Hero, Rebecca Spence. The Forward. June 12, 2008
  9. ^ The Commentator: Is Adam Sandler Our Greatest Jewish Mind?, Daniel Treiman. The Forward. June 19, 2008
  10. ^ Dan Goldwasser (2008-04-20). "Rupert Gregson-Williams scores You Don't Mess with the Zohan". Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  11. ^ "You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  12. ^ You Don't Mess with the Zohan at Metacritic
  13. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum (June 13, 2008). "Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008)". Entertainment Weekly (997).
  14. ^ Richard Schickel (June 5, 2008). "Zohan: Laff Scuffle, Not Laff Riot". Time.
  15. ^ Movie Review: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (PG-13). Roger Ebert. June 6, 2008.
  16. ^ David Edelstein (June 5, 2008). "Israeli Stud, Aspiring Hairdresser". New York Magazine.
  17. ^ A.O. Scott (June 6, 2008). "Watch Out, He's Packing a Blow-Dryer". The New York Times.