Length: 113 minutes
Director: Dennis Dugan (I Know Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; Happy Gilmore)
Writers: Judd Apatow (Knocked Up; The 40 Year Old Virgin), Adam Sandler (Billy Madison; Happy Gilmore), and Robert Smigel (“Saturday Night Live”; “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”)
Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Rob Schneider, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Chris Rock, Nick Swardson, Dave Matthews, Mariah Carey, Lainie Kazan, Charlotte Rae, Kevin Nealon, Robert Smigel, Henry Winkler, Ahmed Ahmed, George Takei, John McEnroe, Bruce Vilanch, John Farley, Dennis Dugan, Anne Marie Howard
Ah, 1995. There was a small theater in Hobe Sound, Florida (you remember it if you used to live down there) that was about twenty miles north from West Palm Beach and twenty miles south from Stuart. Hobe Sound was a very boring little town where there wasn’t much to do but get stoned and go to their shitty little movie theater- which only played two titles at a time and they were titles that had usually been out for a bit. Yet, somehow in 1995, the Hobe Sound Theater got a hold of “Billy Madison”. “Saturday Night Live” was still cool back then (Sandler was still on, so was Chris Farley, Kevin Nealon, etc.) and Sandler had slowly emerged as the “next big thing” and “Madison” was his first official starring vehicle. I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my face. My friend Jason Orazi and I saw it and then parted ways and I went to visit my friend Richard, who also lived in Hobe Sound. I was laughing so hard trying to explain the movie that it was pretty much a given that we were about to go watch it. I saw “Billy Madison” three times that day. I bought Sandler’s comedy album, “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You”, and dutifully saw “Happy Gilmore”, “Big Daddy”, and the others are soon as they came out. I excused “Bulletproof”, but then came “Little Nicky” and “Mr. Deeds” and the animated “8 Crazy Nights”… need I go on? I don’t know if it was because I was getting older if or if it was because Sandler was just getting less funnier. Since “Big Daddy” in 1999 (which showed signs of Sandler slipping, but was still decent), he has made two good films: the brilliant, underrated “Punch Drunk Love”, which he gave the performance of his career, and the sweet romantic-comedy “50 First Dates”. Coming up on ten years since “Big Daddy” and I decided that it was, in fact, that Sandler was getting less funnier. Where as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” had solely been funny due to my age at the time, Sandler was guilty of losing it. I caught “Madison” on Cinemax one late, sleepless night in Reno and while I didn’t laugh as much as did when I was younger, I still got some chuckles out of it. It holds up, where as something like “Ace Ventura” does not. Sandler is a greedy man guilty of selling out his talents for twenty million dollar paychecks to appear in crap like “Click” and yes “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”- the latest of his lazy, cheap laughs vehicles. The goofy, irreverent fun that made “Madison” and “Gilmore” stand apart is long gone, replaced by repeated “fart” and “cock” jokes. Since the film has comic genius of the moment Judd Apatow’s name stamped on it (he was one of the three screenwriters that included Sandler and longtime collaborator/”TV Funhouse” creator Robert Smigel), it figures it will be able to grab in the “date movie” crowd because Apatow put out “Knocked Up” and “40 Year Old Virgin”- both perfect “meet me in the middle” date movies. My will they be angry. There isn’t any Apatow present that I could find in this mess. Just a one note character Sandler created named Zohan, that’s a mock up of an Iranian terrorist, who prefers to be a professional hair dresser in New York City over being an ace assassin for his ‘people” back home. There’s a lot of “it’s funny because it’s taboo” terrorist jokes (that by the way aren’t funny), Zohan dancing around like a moron waving his crotch in everyone’s face, and… I don’t know- the movie is almost two hours long and it seems like it’s never going to end. I kept sitting there waiting to laugh. Waiting for something, anything to make me laugh. It didn’t happen. You don’t want to mess with the Zohan because he’s a dangerous man, you don’t want to mess with the Zohan because he’s an incredibly unfunny man.
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