Movie Review: ‘The Cobbler’
Starring: Adam Sandler, Method Man, and Melanie Diaz
Plot: A New York cobbler discovers that by wearing the shoes he worked on, he can become his customers.
There was time when I would consider myself an Adam Sandler fan. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore were on permanent replay, while The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy snuck in a surprising amount of heart. Looking at his recent work, I struggle with whether I was just the right age to find his immature sense of humor funny, or if Adam Sandler’s sense of humor just happened to age like old milk. Sandler still gets in an impressive performance every now and then, but it is usually only when working with a director or actors outside of his usual circle of friends. Thomas McCarthy definitely fits that bill. His unusually slow paced dramedies The Station Agent and Win Win were some of the bigger surprises to come out of cinema in years. It seems though that McCarthy has accidentally made a regular Adam Sandler movie.
Despite this, McCarthy’s stamp is still there. As he is first introduced, Sandler seems like he is going to be giving one of his finest performances yet. He subverts his usual man-child characters into a quiet, mopey city-dweller named Max, disillusioned with his current station: caring for his ailing mother and tending to his father’s shoe repair shop in the absence of his father, who walked out on them years before. He fits right in with McCarthy’s likable depressed loners.
The premise is pretty novel as well. Riffing on the old adage, “You’ll never understand a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes,” Max, on a whim, tries on fancy pair of alligator shoes he was asked to fix for Method Man’s neighborhood thug, Leon. Max is surprised to see his reflection is now that of Method Man’s. With this new found ability, Max closes up shop and begins trying on different shoes and walking around the city collecting experiences disguised as other people. What makes it pretty fun, is that instead of having Adam Sandler act the part while all the other characters see who he is supposed to be, “Quantum Leap” style, the actors he is posing as, including Method Man and Dan Stevens, do their best meek Sandler impersonation. It is a premise overflowing with possibilities, possibilities that are quickly pushed aside for a more contemporary Sandler type of movie.
There was a time when it seemed like Hollywood didn’t know how to end comedies. They always gave way to weird crime movie endings. Like how in Jungle 2 Jungle, Tim Allen ends up fighting a Russian mobster. That’s sort of how this movie feels with Sandler getting stuck between neighborhood gangsters and the business tycoon that is paying them to strong-arm residents so the tycoon can gentrify the area. It is very forced and ruins the deeper philosophical movie this could have been. And I could never get over the fact that Sandler was disguising himself as neighborhood people who used his store, possibly incriminating them and putting them in danger. The Cobbler even attempts to do this trick ending a second time by explaining the shoes beyond a random “Twilight Zone”-like occurrence into something more mythic. Frankly, it doesn’t work, and unfortunately neither does the rest of the movie.