Take a Drink: every time Max puts on a new pair of shoes
Take a Drink: for every joke that fails to land
Do a Shot: during every WTF moment
Do a Shot: for the shocking ending
Take a Drink: whenever Adam Sandler looks tired
By: Matt Conway (Five Beers) –
Adam Sandler’s career has taken quite the downward spiral. Sandler over the past decade had been selling himself out and making broad, family comedies. This included films like Grown Ups, Just Go With It, and Bedtime Stories. While none of these films were hits with critics, they were big hits at the box office, making Sandler perhaps the biggest comedic talent in Hollywood. More recently, however, his films have not had the same box office success, with both That’s My Boy and Blended being considered big disappointments at the box office.
With his kind of comedy not having the same success, Sandler has thankfully begun trying to do different types of roles. His dramatic turn in Men, Women & Children was actually quite good, in what was truly an underrated gem. While I was a fan, a majority of others were not, and the film bombed hard at the box office. Sandler’s latest attempt to expand his range is the comedy drama The Cobbler, which is already being trashed by critics. This time, I happen to agree with the consensus, as the film is a lackluster and aimless venture.
The Cobbler follows Max Simkin, the owner of a shoe repair shop that has been in the family for several generations. One day, Max stumbles upon a mysterious sewing machine that allows him to transform into the owner of the shoes… and literally walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes. With this power, Max begins to find himself in the community.
This may come as a surprise to some, but Adam Sandler actually does a fairly good job in the leading role. As Max, he correctly tones down his big personality, getting across a somewhat somber man going through the motions of life before finding the machine. He is likable as always, and I think actually gets to show some of his talents for the first time since Funny People in some of the film’s quieter moments. It’s nice to see him doing something different outside of his gross-out comedy films.
The Cobbler’s best character is the film’s setting. Director Thomas McCarthy gets to the nitty gritty of New York City, capturing these few dirty New York streets with a certain sense of reverence. Max’s workplace may not look the best, but has a certain charm to its cluttered appearance, which becomes a character in its own way.
Surrounding Sandler is a supporting cast that actually does a relatively solid job. A lot has been made about Method Man having a major role in the film, but he actually is able to do a good job. He is clearly having a lot of fun in his gangster role, and certainly gives a full-fledged effort in every scene. Steve Buscemi is always a Adam Sandler supporter no matter what, and does a nice job in his small role in the film. Other supporting players, including Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and Dustin Hoffman, also do solid work.
This is why Steve Buscemi is the best.
It’s hard to deny that The Cobbler‘s concept is great. The idea crafted by Thomas McCarthy and Paul Sado is a clever one, which opens the door for quite a few great comedic moments, but also provides a canvas for Max to find himself. Sadly, none of that potential is executed well.
McCarthy’s script throughout the film’s running time is like Max, in the fact that it’s having a major identity crisis. Often times, The Cobbler is undecided on whether it wants to be more of a comedy or a drama, having scenes waver between the two without every making a decision on which one to go with.
With that being the case, the film is a tonal mess. McCarthy’s uneven script is made even worse by his inept direction, which never feels consistent at all. The film goes from the goofiest of all comedic bits to a character passing away within a few scenes, and it’s just such a shocking tonal shift. Why this happens so much in Adam Sandler movies is anyone’s guess.
McCarthy’s script is also very thinly written. The Cobbler essentially sets up its premise and characters in the film’s first twenty minutes, and then just meanders from scene to scene. The closest the move gets to establishing a story is the idea of Max having to help a local group trying to stop the removal of an apartment complex, which is so generic and underdeveloped that it does not really have an effect.
Even worse, most of these meandering scenes are the more overtly comedic moments of the film, which really fall flat on their face. Like most comedies these days, a lot of the film’s best gags are in the trailer, and considering how unfunny The Cobbler trailer was, that’s a very bad quality. The Cobbler has an awkward juxtaposition of more mature comedy with the occasionally silly, Sandler-esque comedy bits we’ve come to expect. Both types of gags fall incredibly flat.
The Cobbler, like a lot of movies, tries to connect audiences with a good moral message, which is in this case the importance of empathy. Max’s adventures are supposed to be for him to see other people’s perspectives on life and get more of an understanding of them, but that moral message is wiped away by McCarthy’s overall sloppy execution. It’s hard to really care about Max when he is using these special powers to commit wrongdoings such a stealing watches or just fixing a situation into his favor. It negates the whole purpose of said message.
Perhaps the most shockingly bad aspect about The Cobbler is its ending, which starts off as being very predictable (I called the major twist from the trailers), until it just becomes hilarious. McCarthy’s script goes to ridiculous heights when it comes to its magical shoe concept, which does not work considering how relatively grounded the film had been beforehand. It feels like something out of a superhero origin story rather than an Adam Sandler film.
The Cobbler in so many ways is just a shockingly bad misfire. Thomas McCarthy has shown previously with Win Win and The Visitor that he is a talented guy, with a knack for finding a sense of humanity in his films and creating great characters. With The Cobbler, he shows none of that talent, and it’s so surprising that a director can go from that good to this bad.
The Cobbler is just as bad as the early trailers have indicated, a tonally incosistent, thinly written, and ineptly told tale that wastes the talent involved. I like that Adam Sandler is trying different types of roles, but it looks like he took a big swing and a miss here.