Australian Council on Children and the Media

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

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Not suitable under 13, not recommended 13 to 15 due to violence, sexual references, crude humour, and coarse language

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
  • a review of You Don’t Mess with the Zohan completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 June 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to violence, sexual references, crude humour, and coarse language
Children 13-15 Not recommended due to sexual references, crude humour, and coarse language

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Frequent sexual references and coarse language
Length 113 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Israeli secret service agent, Zohan (Adam Sandler) has his beach vacation cut short when a helicopter arrives and transports him back to headquarters for an emergency assignment. He is needed to capture his nemesis, the Phantom (John Turturro). Zohan is sick and tired of fighting and dreams of becoming a hairstylist in America. When he has his showdown with the Phantom, he fakes his own death and escapes to New York by stowing away in the cargo hold of a plane. When he lands in America he changes his identity, telling people he is an Australian named Scrappy Coco.
Zohan/Scrappy Coco heads straight to Manhattan where he takes a room with a young man called Michael (Nick Swardson) and his mother Gail (Lainie Kazan). Zohan is soon recognised and befriended by a fellow Israeli, Oori (Ido Mossri) who assists him in getting a job in a hair salon that caters for older women. Before long, Zohan finds himself attracted to his Palestinian boss, Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui).
Unfortunately Zohan is also recognised by a Palestinian cab driver, Salim (Rob Schneider), who immediately puts plans to bomb the salon into action. To further complicate matters a wealthy developer named Walbridge (Michael Buffer) is pressuring and intimidating Dalia and the other shop owners into selling their businesses so that he can build a new shopping mall.

When Salim’s bomb attempt fails, he contacts The Phantom and informs him that Zohan is alive. A showdown between Zohan and The Phantom is arranged.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Palestinian and Israeli cultures; terrorism

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan contains stylised action violence throughout but no visual blood and gore. Examples include:

  • A man in army uniform shoots a machinegun at shadow targets.
  • Zohan kicks a chair with a man sitting in it with such force that the chair and man smash into a wall causing electrical sparks to erupt, we see the man being carried out on a stretcher.
  • During a confrontation with The Phantom, we see Zohan jumping from a moving car and crashing through windows.
  • Zohan kicks a man through a wall and another man over a wall.
  • The Phantom jumps through a window and on to a dog’s head.
  • Palestinian children throw rocks at Zohan, who catches the rocks and then moulds them into the figure of a dog.
  • The Phantom pulls a man off a Jet Ski and punches another man sitting in a kayak knocking him off the kayak. He smashes Zohan across the face with a kayak paddle. During the same scene both The Phantom and Zohan brag to each other how they feel no pain, and to prove his point, The Phantom pick up a piranha and attaches it to his neck, while Zohan pick one up and puts it down the front of his shorts.
  • A man tells Zohan how his brothers and sisters were hacked to death.
  • In a road rage incident, a bully threatens and intimidates a man. Zohan intervenes by grabbing the bully’s finger and twisting it, causing the bully to wince in pain. Zohan then kicks the bully several times in the face.
  • On a couple of occasions, Zohan forces men into ‘living pretzels’ by twisting various body parts. We do not see the actual act just the end result.   
  • Zohan causes a small boy to burst into tears. In an attempt to get the boy to sit still, Zohan tells the boy the hair dresser might slip with the scissors cutting his jugular vein causing blood to spill over the floor and the boy to be dead in five minutes. He also tells the boy that by his age he had killed seven men. When the boy doesn’t stop crying, Zohan pinches his neck, causing him to become unconscious.
  • One scene has images of a man cutting off another man’s hand with the severed hand picking up a knife and then stabbing a man in the back (no blood and gore).
  • A man drives a limousine in a reckless manner, swerving all over the road. The man in the back is violently thrown around inside the car. When the limo comes to a stop and the passenger gets out he immediately vomits over the ground.
  • Zohan stabs himself in the thigh with a pair of scissors.
  • A man spits in Zohan’s face.
  • A group of men play Hacky Sack with a live cat.
  • We see The Phantom cracking two eggs into a glass with live chicks coming out of the eggs with the inference being that The Phantom then drank the chicks.
  • One man tells another man “I’ll cut your eyes out.”
  • Zohan kicks and punches three men in the face knocking them unconscious. While they are unconscious another man kicks them in the stomach.
  • A group of Palestinians phone a Hezbollah helpline for instructions on how to build a bomb, but are told to ring back when ongoing peace negotiations fall through. They eventually make what they believe to be a bomb out of Neosporin ointment which they think is an explosive.   
  • The Phantom punches Zohan in the face and then hits Zohan across the face with a metal bar.
  • When confronting several arsonists, Zohan bangs their heads together and kicks them in the face several times.
  • A man threatens a group of Israelis and Palestinians with blowing up a bomb while holding a puppy.
  • The Phantom and Zohan use their voices to create a sonic force that propels one man hundreds of feet through the air to crash through a window and land in the middle of a group of seated men. The force also defuses a bomb, shatters windows and causes several buildings to explode.    

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the scenes of violence and accidental injury which occur throughout the film.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes of violence and accidental injury which occur throughout the film.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan contains frequent overtly sexual jokes, references and innuendo throughout.

  • Zohan makes a number of sexual references employing personal euphemisms for sexual acts and body parts leaving the viewer with an inference rather than a definite understanding. For example, “My schnitzel is about to burst;” and “My schnitzel will come out of your poopy.” 
  • After Zohan saves a young man from a road rage bully, the young man asks Zohan “What are you, bionic?” to which Zohan replies, “No, I only like the girls.”
  • After having sex with Michael’s mother, Zohan explains to Michael how it is ok for him to have sex with his mother, and then tells Michael “I have your mother one more time and then we go.” 
  • A man makes the comment, “My penis doesn’t go there.”
  • At one point a woman is told, “You look very bangable.”
  • Zohan tells an elderly woman, whose hair he is cutting that she’s “Got the arse and tits of a school girl.” 
  • One of Zohan’s elderly female clients refers to her haircut as “orgasmic.”
  • Zohan tells another man that he (Zohan) has the biggest “bush” (pubic hair), and that women like it because it acts as a cushion. After showing his pubic hair to a doctor, the doctor tells Zohan that he could always shave it and that his penis needs more oxygen because it looks strangled.   
  • Zohan asks one of his clients if she would like a “cut and bang.”
  • One of Zohan’s elderly clients tells him “The screwing was really just a bonus.” Another client states, “Besides the sex he gives a pretty good haircut.”
  • Zohan tells one of his elderly female clients that she has the “flexibility of a circus freak.”    
  • An elderly client tells Zohan “You’re usually hard as trigonometry”
  • Zohan tells an elderly client that he finds her unattractive before he cuts her hair, but after he cuts her hair he tells her that she gives him an erection.  
  • At one point, Dalia is referred to as a “Palestinian muffin.”
  • Zohan tells Dalia “I will only be stiff for you”
  • Michael’s mother Gail tells Zohan that she uses Neosporin ointment for treating cuts and genital sores.  
  • Walbridge makes reference to his female partner’s arse to breast ratio
  • A group of Israeli and Palestinian men stand around talking about the sexual qualities of various American presidents’ wives. One man says “Bush’s wife, this is a wife I would get stick with.” Another man talks about another president’s wife saying, “She has an arse and you know she’s not getting anything.” 
  • A Palestinian man asks The Phantom if he could sleep with his wives, and if they could touch his “pee pee” and his “arse,” to love and make it bang boom.
  • A reference is made to a woman falling “head over tits” over a man.
  • A man says to a woman, “Beg your cleavage’s pardon.”
  • A homophobic derogatory comment is made, “Hungry Homo to the back of a hotdog factory.”   
  • The comment is made, “I love you too horny little man.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • The opening scene, a beach barbecue contained images of several women wearing brief bikinis. During the scene Zohan is depicted naked with his crotch remaining obscured by bench tops etc, we see Zohan’s naked chest, legs, back and buttock with Zohan dancing and shaking his bare buttocks.
  • Zohan lies naked on the beach with a Hacky sack ball caught between the cheeks of his buttocks, which he propels into the air using his buttock muscles. We see him do the same trick with a fish.
  • A bikini-clad woman rubs her body over Zohan’s back.
  • Zohan is naked in several other scenes, including one scene when he is cutting Michael’s mother’s hair and we see his naked back and buttocks reflected in a mirror. Michael’s mother, who is wearing a smock stands up and turns around to hug Zohan, the smock falling open to reveal her naked back and buttocks.
  • A woman wearing a bikini pours soft-drink over her breasts in a suggestive manner  
  • Zohan sleeps on his back on a bed wearing only boxer shorts. He has an exaggerated bulge in the front of his shorts.  
  • Standing in front of a glass door looking into a hair salon, Zohan groans and starts to thrust his pelvis against the glass. Inside the salon are several women wearing short shorts and tops that reveal cleavage.   
  • Michael walks in on his mother and Zohan. Michael’s mother is wearing a bra only while other body parts are obscured by pieces of furniture. Zohan is bare-chested and pulling up his shorts.
  • Zohan uses a vacuum cleaner to suck a woman’s clothed breasts and nipples.  
  • Zohan has a personal salute that involves him tapping his chest with his fist followed by tapping his groin with his fist he does this several times. In one scene, we see Zohan’s penis underneath his pants moving side to side as if waving good buy.  
  • All of Zohan’s clients are elderly woman. While shampooing hair we see Zohan using his mouth and tongue to suck an earring from one client’s ear and he then licks her plunging cleavage. Zohan massages his clients’ hair in an erotic manner, licking one woman’s wet hair while dribbling shampoo from his mouth onto another woman’s hair. He repeatedly thrusts his pelvis into his clients’ shoulders and faces. We see an elderly woman licking lotion from the nipples of Zohan’s naked chest. We see a woman, who is being attended by Zohan rubbing her hands up and down the front of her body. Zohan washes women’s hair in his boxer shorts with the clients putting dollar bills in the waistband. 
  • After cutting their hair, Zohan takes his elderly clients into a back room. We hear the sounds of moaning, with the wall shaking and items on falling off shelves as a result. Women stumble out of the room in various states of dishevelment, with Zohan buttoning his shirt in the background.
  • In one scene Zohan teaches Michael how to sexually arouse female clients.
  • Zohan pulls open his pants and invites another man to look at his pubic hair. He also shows his pubic hair to a doctor.
  • Two elderly women wearing black leather fetish gear sit in chairs while waiting for Zohan to cut their hair.
  • We see the Phantom lying on a large bed surrounded by twenty women clad in bikini-like underwear. The women rub their hands over the Phantom’s body.
  • A woman’s breasts burst when a sonic sound wave is sounded.  

Use of substances

There is infrequent use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Zohan appears to have cravings for a non-alcoholic fizzy middle-eastern drink.
  • Images of wine glasses filled with red wine on a dinner table.
  • A street sign depicts a hookah style pipe. 

Coarse language

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan contains coarse language, putdowns and racist comments including:

  • Bastard, hell, arsehole, shit, bitch, screw you, arse, tits, and damn.   
  • A middle-eastern version of the word “bullshit.”
  • “Got worms eating own poopy”.  
  • The word “Fucker” is implied with the sound of the word ending trailing off.
  • “You are a stupid cow.”
  • “Shitting my pants

In a nutshell

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is a comedy that satirises both Israeli and Palestinian cultures and the world of hairdressing, with much of the humour derived from stereotypes and crude sexual jokes.
 The main messages from this movie are that

  • It is OK to follow your dreams regardless of what other people think.
  • All people should be respected on personal merit and treated as individuals, and should not be feared or treated unfairly as a result of their ethnic or cultural background.


This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Zohan’s promiscuous lifestyle.
  • Zohan’s attitude towards women.
  • ethnic stereotyping

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