‘Zohi Sdom’ which is translation means ‘That’s Sodom’ deliberately places itself at the intersection between the very popular Israeli TV show ‘Eretz Neederet’ (Wonderful Country) and the big screen British Monty Python movies of historical and Biblical inspiration. The Israeli weekly shows are a local version of ‘Saturday Night Live’ bringing at their best some of the sharpest political, social and typological satire in a country that provides endless sources of humor and badly needs laughs to cope with a myriad of problems and conflicts that seem to be unsolvable other than in a comical fantasy. A permanent team of actors usually play all the roles in the show, in a collection of sketchers interleaved with permanent features, which were abandoned here, as was the newsreel format in the favor of the Biblical story parody. The British show was starting with the end of the 60s the source of inspiration of all other comical and satirical TV series all over the world (including the American SNL) and also pioneered the transcription to the wide screen with anthology successes that seldom have been equaled by other similar shows world-wide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ0xVAx1eQQ

(video source rsaker14)

The too close following of the sources of inspiration may be the cause for which the big screen movie does not really work. Although the idea is quite cool (the TV anchor in the original show is a cynical God attracting patriarch Abraham into the trap of the Holy Contract while preparing the destruction of the sin city of Sodom) and the story works better that you would expect, there are many laughs during the screening, but none is hysterical. The TV stars do in the movie of the same that they do in the TV show, just the screen is bigger, and some of them do not look as well on the big screen as in the TV box (the otherwise beautiful and talented Alma Zack for example, or Orna Banai who gets a very insignificant role and little screen time). Best are the street scenes depicting the life in Sodom, and here the references to reality nowadays work well. However, the exaggerated adherence to the Monty Python formula (including the insertion of music and dances) provide a (maybe unintended) air of detachment and diminish the acuity of the social and political comments which make the original show interesting for the majority of its viewers.

Released at the pick of the summer season ‘Zohi Sdom’ will certainly be a huge hit in Israel this year. I am less convinced that it will survive as an outstanding movie beyond this summer.