You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008)

Summary

Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) is an agent of the Israeli military high command who fakes his own death in an attack by his archenemy, the Phantom terrorist (John Tururro), to fulfill his life’s dream: to become a hairdresser in New York.

Upon arriving in the United States, his 1st stop is at the salon of his idol Paul Mitchell (John Paul DeJoria), where he assumes the identity of Scrappy Coco. Ridiculed for his old-fashioned ways, Zohan doesn’t get his dream job. He then tries to adapt to life in the new city, until he is discovered by his old enemies.

Movie details

‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’ recap

On one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, superhuman Israeli counter-terrorist Zohan is enjoying a vacation surrounded by good food and gorgeous women.

Thanks to his amazing abilities, he impresses everyone by winning every challenge they throw at him without even breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, his vacation is interrupted by some higher-ups from the Israel Defense Forces, who need him for the next mission.

It turns out Phantom, the superhuman leader of a Palestinian terrorist group, was seen at a hacky sack tournament in Beirut, which probably means he’s trying to bait them. This confuses Zohan because he caught his arch-enemy three months ago, but his bosses used him for a trade and now he’s free again.

Zohan shouldn’t be accepting this mission, but the mention of potential civilian casualties convinces him to join and make things easier. Later, while he is getting ready for the mission, Zohan retrieves his greatest treasure from a hidden spot in his room: it’s an old hairstyling catalog, which he keeps because his dream is to become a stylist one day.

While having dinner with his parents, he confesses he’s tired of conflict and violence, and that he wishes to quit to start a new life in the USA. His parents don’t approve, thinking a career in the army is the most stable job he can have, and when they finally get him to admit his hairstyling dream they laugh at him, calling him a slur for gay. That night, Zohan goes to bed in tears.

The next day, Zohan goes downtown, ready to jump into action. It’s not hard for him to knock out every single lower soldier thanks to his powers which include stopping bullets with his nose, but Phantom is a tough cookie and makes him chase him until they reach the sea.

There, they start passing around a grenade until it explodes and the only thing left behind by Zohan is his beach shorts. Phantom presents them to his people as proof that he killed the greatest Israeli counter-terrorist in history, but actually this is part of Zohan’s plan to fake his death and finally retire, he’s just hiding underwater.

After retrieving the bag he hid with a bird earlier, Zohan smuggles himself onto a plane to New York and travels inside a pet crate with dogs Scrappy and Coco, who don’t come closer until he changes his haircut into something he considers more modern.

By the time the plane makes it to the USA, Zohan has given new haircuts to the dogs as well and he manages to escape safely in order to make his way to Manhattan. His first destination is the famous Paul Mitchell’s salon, where he introduces himself with the fake name “Scrappy Coco” inspired by the dogs and asks for a stylist job, but he’s laughed at and kicked out for his lack of experience and ridiculous attitude.

While wandering around the city, Zohan notices a young Jewish man named Michael being bullied by a driver that almost run over his bicycle. Zohan immediately jumps to the rescue, beating the bully up and earning Michael’s gratitude.

Unfortunately this victorious moment suddenly turns sour when Zohan sees a cab stop by the street lights and recognizes the driver: it’s Salim, a Palestinian man who Zohan met many years ago during a mission. Afraid of being recognized, Zohan picks up Michael to cover his face and runs away until they make it to Michael’s home.

This is how Zohan meets Michael’s mother Gail and pretends to be Australian to stay on her good side; the trick works and Gail allows him to stay in the apartment upstairs. A few hours later, Michael accidentally walks on Zohan and Gail getting busy, which is definitely quite traumatizing, so Zohan tries to distract him and make amends by taking him out to meet girls.

At the club, Zohan teaches Michael to be less picky because all women have something to offer no matter their age or body type, and while Michael tries to follow that advice, Zohan is approached by Oori, a fellow Israeli immigrant that immediately recognizes him.

Since he’s a huge fan, Oori promises not to tell anyone about Zohan’s presence and even gives him his business card in case Zohan wants to try working at his electronics shop. The following day, Zohan goes job hunting again, but none of the local salons want to hire him because he doesn’t have experience and makes the kids cry.

Seeing as this will take longer than he thought, Zohan goes to see Oori in an area in lower Manhattan populated by other Middle Eastern immigrants. He wants to get a temporary position in the electronics shop until he finds something better, but Oori changes his mind and turns him down, explaining that this shop kills dreams.

All his other employees had ambition when they arrived in the country too, but now they are stuck here and Oori can’t allow that to happen to the great Zohan, so he offers a different idea: there’s a small salon on the Palestinian side of the street that will probably accept him.

At first, Zohan doesn’t want anything to do with working in a Palestinian business, but Oori quickly changes his mind by showing him what Phantom has been doing lately. Thanks to his newfound popularity, he’s running a restaurant chain called “Phantom Muchentuchen” and the kids’ meal includes toys of himself and an exploding Zohan.

Furious at the fact his enemy can live his dream but he can’t, Zohan leaves his worries aside and crosses the street to meet Dalia, the salon owner who is struggling to keep it open because rent is being raised almost every month.

She’s not impressed by Zohan’s lack of experience, but in the end she allows him to sweep the floor a few shifts a week for free so he can gain some kind of practice. Zohan continues to live in Michael’s building, practicing his styling skills on Gail in his free time while working at Dalia’s with tons of dedication for such a simple task.

In fact he’s so thorough with his cleaning that it sometimes makes it harder for the other stylists like Claude to work. To speed up his learning and stop him from being in the way, Claude begins giving Zohan some extra classes after the shop closes.

And since this he’s not making money out of this, Zohan also takes a part-time job as a driver to earn his living, although his maniac driving skill leaves much to be desired. One afternoon, one of Dalia’s stylists quits, prompting Zohan to volunteer to replace her.

Dalia doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but the clients don’t mind, and Zohan finally gets to do what he’s always dreamed of. His haircuts are a bit outdated, but the clients who are all middle-aged women don’t mind because he treats them like queens: he flirts, dances, offers head massages that are almost indecent, and once the haircut is finished he takes the ladies to the back room for a private session.

Soon every woman in town is coming to Dalia’s salon to get their hair done by Zohan, bringing lots of money to the business and allowing Dalia to stay up to date with the raising rent. Zohan’s success is so big he even gets a call from Paul Mitchell himself to try to hire him, but Zohan is loyal to Dalia and Claude, who begins getting tips on how to treat the ladies as thanks for his classes.

One day, two new clients arrive at the salon in Salim’s cab, revealing Zohan’s presence to the driver. He remembers Zohan perfectly from the time he was in Palestine; Salim had thrown a shoe and spat at him, so Zohan took Salim’s beloved goat as payback.

Enraged and eager to get revenge, Salim calls his friends Hamdi and Nasi in order to make a plan to catch Zohan and become as popular as Phantom himself.

Meanwhile Zohan and Dalia go on a picnic together, although Dalia makes sure to clarify it’s not a date. The two of them get to bond and share their experiences as immigrants, and Zohan’s impressed to hear someone else dislikes the way both sides hate each other and won’t stop fighting for stupid reasons.

When they return to the salon, Nasin shows up pretending to be a client and mentions things like goats and throwing shoes as a way to gather intel, but Zohan doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.

By the time Nasi goes back to Salim, he feels as charmed by Zohan as all the ladies. Speaking of the ladies, Zohan discovers his body doesn’t want to collaborate and he can’t offer private sessions anymore.

Seeing a doctor offers no answers, but sharing his worries with Gail does: she immediately picks on the fact this has been going on since Zohan went on that picnic with Dalia, which means he’s falling in love with her and his body will only work for her. Back to Salim, he and his friends are trying to get their hands on some bombs, but the provider isn’t picking up the phone.

They decide to instead use a recipe from the internet and go to the local pharmacy to buy liquid nitrogen, but the clerk misunderstands their accent and gives them an ointment called “Neosporin”. In the meantime at the salon, Dalia is sending away the collectors after paying them, explaining she doesn’t care if they cut the water because she isn’t leaving her shop and she knows they’re trying to push all the locals out to destroy their community.

Zohan overhears this and is so impressed that his body reacts to her, which confirms she is the special one, but unfortunately Dalia doesn’t like him back.

In the evening, Salim and his friends drive by and throw their cream bomb at the salon, thinking they did something amazing, but Zohan just takes it home so Gail can use it for any aches. However Oori is worried that someone may know about Zohan’s real identity and tells him to take Michael’s shift in the community watch to gather clues.

That night, Zohan finds three thugs doing offensive graffiti on the local shops and instead of calling the police like the community watch’s rules say, Zohan beats them up himself.

The following day, it’s revealed that those three men had been sent by Grant, the landlord behind the shops in lower Manhattan who wants everyone to leave so he can demolish the buildings and build a mall.

He’s frustrated with his collectors because none of them have managed to scare any of the locals away, thus he’ll have to take the matter into his own hands by hiring a group of white supremacists led by James, who gladly takes the job and won’t hesitate to play dirty. In the neighborhood, Palestinian and Israeli groups are blaming each other for the graffiti.

Zohan explains he saw the thugs had been white guys, but not even his clarification is enough for the groups to put away their differences. Meanwhile Salim and his friends finally admit they can’t do this on their own and call Phantom to ask for his help, who accepts to come over after offering the most pathetic of rewards for Salim, then he immediately begins training.

A few days later, the rumor column in the newspaper publishes a vague message that implies Phantom is coming after Zohan. Not wanting to lose his new life when things blow up, Zohan comes clean to Michael and Gail, who are very accepting and advise him to be honest with Dalia as well.

However Dalia isn’t as supportive: she doesn’t mind the fact Zohan is Israeli, but him being a counter-terrorist is a deal breaker because of reasons related to her family. Before Zohan leaves, Dalia gives her an updated hairstyle book as a goodbye gift.

The following day, Zohan gets ready to confront Phantom claiming he can do it on his own, but just in case, Oori still calls his friends to get their weapons ready. The rumors say he would be showing up at a local hacky sack game that lots of celebrities would be attending, including Mariah Carey and Grant, who had given away lots of tickets for free.

In fact Phantom is a big Mariah fan and during half-time he visits her in her dressing room, giving Zohan the chance to strike in private.

Zohan and Phantom dance around each other waiting for the other to move first but before anything happens, their encounter is interrupted by a call from Michael, who tells Zohan about a group of thugs starting fires in various Middle Eastern shops.

Protecting his people is more important than old rivalry, so Zohan leaves Phantom for now and goes back to his neighborhood, where another argument between Palestinians and Israelis has started since they blame each other for these attacks.

Salim, Hamdi, Nasi, Oori and his friends join the argument too, but when Phantom also comes over he decides to play hero and tries to stop the fire by himself. Noticing this can’t be a one-man job, Zohan puts their differences aside and helps Phantom put the fire out by using a hummus hose.

Afterward, he explains he doesn’t want to fight anymore and doesn’t even react when Phantom tries to provoke him with multiple hits. He can’t understand how Zohan can stay so calm, and his questioning is interrupted by Dalia, who turns out to be Phantom’s sister and that’s why she couldn’t be with Zohan.

She explains that Zohan has changed into a better man that accepts that here in the USA they need to work together instead of fighting, and this is why she also changed her mind and loves him for it. Dalia’s speech brings both groups together, but Salim is still angry about his goat until Zohan apologizes and swears he treated the animal like family.

The reconciliation is suddenly interrupted by the thugs that are still starting fires, so Zohan uses his special army goggles to gather some intel and discovers those thugs are James and his men in disguise. It turns out Grant organized the hacky sack game on purpose to get everyone off the streets, giving James room to work and make it look like the Palestinians and Israelis had been attacking each other.

Phantom wants to go after them alone, wanting to burn his frustration over the fact that unlike Zohan, he never got to escape and fulfill his own dream of selling shoes. Zohan shows his support and understanding, earning Phantom’s friendship and his approval of the idea of them fighting together.

With their abilities combined, it’s incredibly easy for them to beat up their enemies, but there’s one man left: James, who has a bomb and a cage full of puppies. There’s not enough time to stop him by hand, so Zohan and Phantom scream the jihadi chants that their people haven’t sung together in centuries, causing the manhole under James to blow up and take him away from the bomb; it also sends the puppies through an apartment window where they land safely on a couch.

At that moment, Grant arrives to check the progress of his plan but the police are also there and arrest him on the spot.

Zohan is ready to celebrate but there’s a little problem: Phantom isn’t capable of stopping his screaming in time and ends up causing more damage to the stores. Fortunately now that the Israelis and Palestinians are united, they can work together and rebuild the block into a collectively-owned mall where everyone can keep their shops.

Phantom’s finally selling shoes, Salim starts a goat ride business, Oori relocates his electronics store there, and after getting married, Zohan and Dalia open their salon there as well. Michael is their employee, and he styles hair while using the flirting techniques he’s learned from Zohan.

One afternoon, Zohan is shocked to find his parents visiting the salon. Even more surprisingly, they approve of his business and his Palestinian wife, and they give him the chance to cut their hair as a sign of their support.

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