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Notes from the back row

The difference between funny and sheer stupidity



I’m honestly not a fan of hummus. Forget the fact that it looks like a mixture of cat puke and dog shit, I’ll let that slide because I eat refried beans — which looks the same except you switch the dog and cat roles around. But hummus feels wrong, tastes worse, and makes your mouth smell like ass for the rest of the day. Simply put, I don’t like hummus, never have.

Hummus jokes, on the other hand, are pretty funny. I hadn’t realized how funny but Don’t Mess with the Zohan , opening Friday at the Village 8, has shown me the way. Adam Sandler stars as an Israeli super-agent who fakes his death and starts living his real dream – a fancy New York hairdresser, styling hair for old ladies and then nailing them. Even though the Zohan has put the fighting behind him and even works for a Palestinian (the film promotes tolerance of course, but done in a better way than Sandler’s last flick Chuck and Larry which was about faking being gay). Unfortunately, you’re never truly ‘out’ of the political assassination industry and both new and old enemies (Rob Schneider and John Tuturro) track Zohan down.

Sometimes stupid is stupid and sometimes it’s kind of awesome, in a stupid way. Sandler’s Billy Madison belongs in the second category, as does Little Nicky. This movie doesn’t rival those classics but it’s got dick jokes, age jokes, terrorist jokes, cat hacky-sacking and enough crass, juvenile humour to land in the same league. When was the last time you saw the type of hero who rocks cut-off jean shorts (those are huge this year) one minute and extinguishes a dangerous fire with hummus the next? Then screws the old woman from TV’s The Facts of Life ? Even if the film falters in the serious romance and politics scenes, Sandler fully commits to being really far out there and in the end you truly don’t mess with the Zohan.

And then there’s the panda movie. The panda movie says “prepare for awesomeness” right on the poster. That’s usually a bad sign but Kung Fu Panda actually isn’t too shabby, especially if you are a kid and are into that sort of thing. When you’re a kid, Kung Fu is one of the coolest things going and Jack Black (as the panda) has proven in School of Rock that he’s capable of reaching childish minds .

Black voices a fat, clumsy, noodle-slurping panda who is chosen, strangely, to learn the secret of the dragon scroll and become a Kung Fu master in order to battle the evil Kung Fu snow leopard. Can the panda overcome his limitations to be a true master? Of course he can, the theme of the picture is the same one we’ve seen in kids’ movies my entire life; Believe in yourself and follow your heart and you can succeed at anything. Pigs, rats, penguins, dogs, ants, birds, sharks, bees and fish can do it, so why not a panda?

While there is nothing new about the theme and the story is simplistic at best it is nice to see an animated flick that isn’t so chock full of ‘clever’ filmic references you forget what movie you’re actually watching. Panda also has pretty spectacular visuals, the Asian themes and background imagery are stunning and the Kung-Fu is pretty kick-ass too. Co-voiced by Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen and Angelina Jolie, Kung Fu Panda is a decent kids flick and, if you’ve got nothing better to do, would make for a good matinee. Angelina could have used more lines but alas, it is not a perfect world. If it were there’d be no such thing as hummus.