UK Release Date: 31st July 2015
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Writer: Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado
Starring: Adam Sandler, Melonie Diaz, Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman, Method Man, Ellen Barkin, Dan Stevens
Synopsis: A jaded, disgruntled cobbler finds that an old stitching machine gives him the power to inhabit the body of anyone whose shoes he repairs.
Over the last few years, Adam Sandler appears to have made it his mission to dominate the world of Hollywood comedy with astonishingly bland star vehicles for himself and his friends. The Cobbler, written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, is an entirely different beast – a quirky, lo-fi indie drama with a weird fantasy premise. It’s a special kind of terrible.
Max Simkin (Sandler) is disillusioned with working in the cobbler shop that was previously owned by his father. When local thug Leon (Method Man) intimidates him, he is forced to use an old stitching machine to repair his shoes quickly. Accidentally, Simkin discovers that the old machine lets him inhabit the body of the shoes’ owner, whether it’s Leon, a local pretty boy (Dan Stevens) or his father (Dustin Hoffman) for one last dinner date with his mother.
There’s nothing wrong at all with magical realism. There’s also nothing wrong at all with quirky indie cinema. However, The Cobbler is a truly bizarre, utterly indecipherable disaster in just about every single tiny facet of the filmmaking process. It takes some achievement to make a film starring Adam Sandler, in which he isn’t the worst thing.
| "It’s a privilege to walk in another man’s shoes, but it’s also a responsibility."
Sandler gives a dismal performance in which even he is desperately weary. His character lives in a dank, gloomy corner of New York’s Lower East Side which is populated entirely by dank, gloomy people. It’s tough to ever get invested in any of the characters when they exist in such a boring world. Unfortunately, that level of tedium is sustained even when magic enters the world, given that the magic is only deployed in offensive fashion.
Whenever Sandler dons the shoes of one of his clients, offense is never far behind. When he dons the shoes of Dan Stevens, only a farcical comedic twist prevents him from committing a sexual assault and almost all of the more criminal aspects of the magic are executed in the body of a black character. It’s mind-blowing how insensitive this aspect of The Cobbler’s plot turns out to be.
In fact, things get even worse when the more serious plot starts to kick into gear later on, with Ellen Barkin’s crime lord at the centre. This is a muddled mess of a story, which all of the performers seem unable to handle and the film is far too lightweight to carry. And this is all before a final ten minutes so barmy and borderline idiotic that it’s almost impossible to believe they were written by a seasoned and acclaimed filmmaker. It plays out like the worst superhero origin story of all time.
| "You ever wish you were somebody else?"
It’s no surprise that The Cobbler died at the box office because it truly is a disastrous experiment in filmmaking. The performances are pitiful, the script an undignified mess and the entire final product an exercise in laughable plotting and depressing caricatures. It won’t be long at all until The Cobbler is a completely forgotten story, consigned to DVD bargain bins and very difficult pub quiz questions.
Pop or Poop?
Even without Adam Sandler in the lead role, The Cobbler would have been a truly terrible film.
Thomas McCarthy’s stinker of a story is made even worse with the addition of some genuinely horrible stereotyping and leaden performances.
This is a film about shoes with absolutely no sole.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.