(2008)3Derek ArmstrongIf the key to good comedy is the surprise of seeing something clever and new, then You Don't Mess with the Zohan is really good comedy for about 30 minutes. The impressive screenwriting team of Judd Apatow, Robert Smigel, and Adam Sandler dreamed up a truly unique character for Sandler to play: an Israeli super-spy capable of outrageous feats of cunning, acrobatics, physical flexibility, and brute strength. We've never seen a guy quite like this, and for the first act, he leaps between buildings, punches through walls, punishes bad guys, and lures babes, all without ever breaking a sweat. Sandler is downright alluring in his full beard, flowing curls, tattered shirt, and cut-off blue jeans, and the character exudes effortless cool. So it's an inevitable disappointment when the action shifts to New York, and the Zohan takes residency in a salon owned by a Palestinian love interest (Emmanuelle Chriqui) to live out his dream of becoming a hairdresser. Not only does he lose the beard and locks in favor of a hairdo several decades out of fashion, but he adds what becomes a trademark additional service for the old ladies who patronize the salon: he boffs them in the back room after completing their haircut. This joke is symbolic of the way the screenwriters lose focus -- not only is it a lot less funny than they think, but they flog it endlessly. At this point, the quick first-act pacing grinds to a halt as the viewer's initial optimism curdles into impatience for the 113-minute running time to expire. Perhaps 113 minutes of the Zohan beating up enemy combatants would have also grown tiresome. But 90 minutes split between culture clashes and fist smashes -- and with much less elderly intercourse -- could have made Zohan special, rather than just sufficient.