TIFF-The Cobbler-2

The Cobbler is one of those modern-day fairy tales that tries so hard to be everything to everyone that it loses sight of what it actually is. The film is a constant contradiction of itself. At times it is a screwball comedy with heart and at other times a misguided, not to mention slightly offensive, cultural satire. It wants to be both a whimsical tale and a superhero origin story. It has both the familiar trappings of an Adam Sandler comedy and the feel of an artist making an honest attempt at trying something different.

The problem with the latter being that the artist, in this case director Tom McCarthy, ultimately gets lost in the process. After making such rich and engaging character pieces like The Station Agent and The Visitor, Tom McCarthy has earned the right to extend his reach a bit. Truth be told, he is a director who we are rooting for each time he steps up to the plate. Which makes The Cobbler even more disappointing. The film feels like anyone could have been behind the camera. McCarthy has concocted a film were his unique voice is nowhere to be found.

As The Cobbler is primarily an Adam Sandler vehicle, he will most likely get the brunt of the critical blame which is a shame. Sandler is actually quite good in the film. He and the rest of the all-star cast, which includes Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman and Ellen Barkin, do the best they can with the material they are given, unfortunately they are not given much.

The story follows lonely shoe repairman Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) who stumbles upon an old family heirloom that has magical powers. Discovering that he can literally “walk in another person’s shoes”, Max is transformed into any of the customers whose shoes he both fixes and tries on. Indulging in this newfound ability to be whoever he wants, and subsequently get away with whatever he wants, Max gets more than he bargains for when assumes the identity of streetwise gangster Ludlow (Clifford “Method Man” Smith).

The interesting thing about The Cobbler is that McCarthy actually has a rather innovated premise to work with. There have been several films, take M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable for example, which effectively used superhero tropes in an unconventional way. McCarthy’s film has the potential to be a solid comedy but lacks the stern voice needed to reign in various concepts flying around aimlessly. The old “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” approach gets infuriating by time the film reaches the end of its second act.

Despite being comprised of a splattering of ideas colliding on a canvass, the saddest thing about The Cobbler is that it will probably do well at the box office. The loyal legion of Adam Sandler fans will most likely eat up the bad “sole” puns and the nonsensical plot. Hopefully The Cobbler is nothing more than McCarthy’s momentary kryptonite. A brief spell of directorial weakness that, with his next feature, he will heroically recover from wearing his own identifiable shoes.


  1. Adam Sandler is having a very bad year and I don’t think it’s going to get any better as I think he needs to take a few years off. Then, he can come back in supporting roles to be challenged again and not worry about expectations.

    1. While I would love to see him take on more darker/challenging roles, like Tom Cruise did with Magnolia and Collateral, I must say Sandler is not to blame for the films shortcomings. He tries his best to make it work but the script, and overall execution, lets him down.

      1. There’s no question that he has talent but he really needs to pay attention to the projects he’s doing. Yet, I really think he needs to take a few years off and reinvent himself.

    1. I can understand why some will find the film enjoyable, but it just did not work for me. It was upsetting to see how much The Cobbler missed the mark despite the amount of talent involved.

  2. Courtney, I proclaim your review the best I’ve read out of four or so. Let’s qualify this: I have not been able to see the movie myself (i.e., kinda like Saturday Night Live Movie Reviews w/ Father Guido). That said, I’m sad for Adam Sandler. His last, Blended, was truly awful. I’m thinking back to 2001 and his appearance in the Concert For New York. This may have been his last great moment, but it was almost as if one knew after this event there was a quantum change about to take place. Sandler never made what ever the hell transition the times demanded. He went back to the well and it was drier and drier. Now, this movie’s failure may not actually be on Sandler by what I’ve read. Still, it isn’t what he needed and may well be more damage. I believe one of the poster’s advice that he comes back in supporting roles is spot-on. My favorite Matt Dillion role is comedic and it’s a supporting role in There’s Something About Mary. When I think of that movie his role really took over my memory and I always smile. Thought Dillon really didn’t build on it appreciably, it cements him in a very positive light in my mind. Other than his original introduction in the The Outsiders it is his best role. Sandler is ripe for this kind of use. He’s definitely talented, but he’s in a rut and he needs a total re-invention. As for The Cobbler…I’m still going to see it. I’m a third generation shoe person. I cut my teeth learning repair, I spent most of my years not int the repair shop because I ran our retail shoe store. Now, as I enter the last half of my fifties I’m back in the shoe repair shop.. I like working with my hands and believe all craftsmen who keep the old professions burning are doing noble work. With that, and the love of the Gepetto Brother’s Grim fairly tale, I have simply got to see The Cobbler.

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