Review: The Cobbler
PLOT: A New York cobbler (Adam Sandler) discovers that the old cobbling machine stored in his basement has magic powers. If he uses the machine to repair a pair of shoes, by wearing the repaired shoes he's able to assume their identity.
REVIEW: THE COBBLER was one of two Adam Sandler movies to play TIFF this year. Of the pair, it was the more low-key entry, with the other being Jason Reitman's much anticipated (at the time) MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN. That one came and went pretty quickly, and now THE COBBLER is going the VOD-route, something which would have seemed unlikely for an Adam Sandler vehicle just a few years ago.
All told, it's really not much of a surprise that THE COBBLER is getting a blink and you'll miss it release as the movie truly does not merit any more. It's astonishingly bad, especially given that it comes from the talented Thomas McCarthy of THE STATION AGENT, THE VISITOR and WIN-WIN. He doesn't bring any of the heart of those movies to this stale outing, which is more like your typical Adam Sandler flick than you'd think given the pedigree. Sandler is once again playing a kind of man-child, only slightly more morose than usual (his attempt at seeming indie?). He lives with his mom, works at his absent father's shop and whines about doing a job he hates and not being able to find a girlfriend. He acts more like a guy in his twenties or thirties than someone who's pushing fifty as Sandler is.
The dopey execution doesn't help matters. The premise is certainly ridiculous, but given some flair and creativity it could have been fun. Not so here, as Sandler's Max Simkin does your typical Sandler-style things while wearing the shoes, like pretend to be a suave brit (Dan Stevens) so he can see the man's girlfriend naked or potentially sleep with her. The film also has a racially insensitive bent, which one can only assume is unintentional given McCarthy's other work. The one major black character (played by Method Man) is a scary gangster, and when Sandler wears his shoes, the first thing he does is rob someone. He also pretends to be a black man so he can dine at a restaurant and bail out on the check. It's a little much.
Later on, THE COBBLER turns into something of a light thriller, with Sandler discovering Method Man's character is part of a nasty plot by Ellen Barkin's character to gentrify his neighborhood. He teams up with a cute local volunteer (Melonie Diaz) to foil the plot, leading to a final revelation that queues up a sequel that will likely (hopefully) never happen.
Truly, this is an abysmal film for McCarthy, although it goes to prove just how bad Sandler's movies have gotten lately that it's actually better than anything he's done in a while not that this is anywhere near being a good film. At least this one has a few nice character moments, such as a scene where Sandler briefly becomes his father (Hoffman) and a good performance by Sandler regular Steve Buscemi as a neighboring shop owner. Still, this can't help but come off as anything other than a disaster for McCarthy. It's strange how totally off-the-rails the movie goes so quickly, with a klezmer soundtrack that grates on the nerves, and a total absence of laughs even though this is clearly meant to be a comedy. Hopefully for all involved, THE COBBLER will be quickly forgotten.
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