The Hebrew Hammer review by Mike Long

In my recent review for White Chicks , I mentioned that a satirical comedy needs a true focus in order to work. If the movie doesn't clearly define its target, or takes on too many topics, it won't succeed. The film The Hebrew Hammer proves that a the focus of a comedy can also be far too narrow, and thus will alienate much of the audience.

The Hebrew Hammer is a spoof of early 70s blaxploitation movie, with a decidedly religious turn. Adam Goldberg (the only man on Earth with hair thicker than mine) stars as Mordechai Jefferson Carver, also known as The Hebrew Hammer. Carver is a "Certified Circumcised Dick", a private detective who takes jobs protecting his Jewish brothers and sisters. This isn't good enough for his mother (Nora Dunn), who wishes that he'd get a real job.

Meanwhile, at the North Pole, Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), is gearing up for Christmas. Unfortunately, his evil son, Damian (Andy Dick), murders his father and vows to destroy Chanukah. The head of the Jewish Justice League, Chief Bloomenbergansteinthal (Peter Coyote) sends his daughter, Esther (Judy Greer), to ask for The Hammer's help. Carver reluctantly agrees, and goes to Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahiem (Mario Van Peebles), the Kwanzaa Liberation Front for assistance. With the help of Esther and Rahiem, The Hebrew Hammer attempts to foil Damian's various plans to stop Chanukah.

First of all, let me say that I'm not Jewish, so many of the jokes in the film probably flew right past me. The movie is filled wall-to-wall with references to the Jewish faith and Jewish culture, some of which I got, but most I didn't. But, that shouldn't have kept me from enjoying the film. What holds The Hebrew Hammer back is the fact that it's a one-joke movie and it simply isn't all that funny. The idea of a Jewish anti-hero is funny (I guess), but that's really all that the film has to offer. The bulk of the film continues to build upon this joke and it runs out of gas very early. The film plays upon stereotypes of Jewish, African-American, and Christian culture. But, the movie never rises above these stereotypes. Throughout the film, Carver exhibits all of the familiar Jewish stereotypes and I kept waiting for the film to drop this strategy let him be himself. But that never happens. The movie does have some funny moments but they are few and far between. The only thing about The Hebrew Hammer that I can recommend is Andy Dick. I realize that many people don't like him, but he's his typically over-the-top self here and he steals the show. Damian constantly berates his cohort, Tiny Tim (Sean Whalen) and many of those lines are hilarious. Once again, maybe if I were Jewish, or knew more about Jewish culture, I would have enjoyed The Hebrew Hammer more. I wasn't offended by the film's swipes at gentiles, but I wish that I had been. At least that would have been an emotional reaction.

The Hebrew Hammer bursts onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and there is no oversaturation of the hues. There is some mild video noise on the image at times, but otherwise the picture looks fine. The DVD offers a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track provides clear dialogue with no overt defects. The action scenes provide an opportunity for some nice surround sound effects, but the track is somewhat lacking in subwoofer action. The Hebrew Hammer originally premiered on Comedy Central in a severely truncated form. The version on the DVD is the 85-minute R-rated cut with all of the violence and profanity intact.

The Hebrew Hammer DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from star Adam Goldberg, writer/director Jonathan Kesselman, producer Josh Kesselman, and Jonathan & Josh's mom, Sandra Kesselman. This is a fun commentary as the three guys talk about the production of the film and how much they enjoyed it, while Mrs. Kesselman constantly comments on the jewelry in the film, seemingly oblivious to what everyone else is saying. The DVD contains the original 6-minute short of The Hebrew Hammer. It's in black & white and is presented full-frame. The image shows some grain. The short has no dialogue and is somewhat interesting. There are 8 deleted scenes from The Hebrew Hammer, totaling about 9 minutes, and it's clear why each was cut. There is a 2 1/2 minute "Gag Reel" which offers some humorous moments, and the extras are finished off by Cast & Crew Bios.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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