Sandler’s “The Cobbler” Is The Wrong Size And Too Big To Fill

By Scott Kurland

Film: The Cobbler
Starring: Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Clifford “Method Man” Smith, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Ellen Barkin, and Dustin Hoffman
Rated PG-13
Director: Thomas McCarthy

     I really dislike when acclaimed directors try to jump out of their comfort zone and make a different genre of films. In some cases you get the success stories, like Martin Scorsese with “Hugo” or Kenneth Brannagh with “Thor”. However, most of the time they fail horribly like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. He won an Oscar for “The Lives of Others”, and then tried making a screwball caper called “The Tourist” with Johnny Depp. It failed horribly five years ago, and von Donnersmarck never made another movie again. That brings me to this week’s film “The Cobbler” directed by Indie Director Thomas McCarthy, the man behind “The Station Agent”, “WIN WIN”, and he wrote Disney Pixar’s “UP”. Yet, this time he leaves his comfort zone to make an Adam Sandler fantasy comedy. Is it any good? Let’s find out shall we?

    Adam Sandler plays Max Simkin, a well meaning cobbler living in New York. His life is sad, no love life to speak of, he lives with his mother (Lynn Cohen), and his only friend is a barber named Jimmy (Steve Buscemi), who treats him more like a son than his friend. When Max’s sewing machine breaks his only option is to use the old foot powered one left to him by his father. What Max learns is this is no ordinary sewing machine. This sewing machine has mystical Jewish powers. The machine allows Max to become anyone who’s shoes he puts on. Will Max use this new found power for good or evil?

    For a movie starring Adam Sandler he’s barely in it. Instead of having the audience use their imaginations we see the people Max turns into. I feel like Thomas McCarthy only had like a week or two with Sandler and had to shoot all his scenes first. Sandler isn’t bad here, he’s actually pretty good in a reserved way, but I feel like a film starring “Adam Sandler” should have him in every scene. I would have much preferred it like “Heaven Can Wait” or “Down To Earth” where we see Sandler, but to everyone else  he’s a different person. They could driven this point home by having him walk by a Mirror or window and it’s  a different person. But they don’t, and it really makes the film suffer.

   For me the best part about this film was Clifford “Method Man” Smith. I know that sounds insane, but he’s actually a very talented actor. He has the most difficult job of anyone in this film. First he has to play a thug and be vulgar and a bit of a monster. Then, when he’s playing Adam Sandler pretending to be him he’s thoughtful and sincere, also he’s a bit of a nerd. This is a very different Method Man, and I actually would have loved to see a movie about him playing twins, almost like a “Prince and the Pauper” sort of film. I hope he keeps getting roles of this nature because he’s a very good actor when push comes to shove.

   Besides Method Man’s performance I really did not like this film. It’s a clever premise, I mean you never really know someone till you walk a mile in their shoes. What this film does is take that notion and exploit it for selfish gain. “The Cobbler” is all over the place, and it’s a down right terrible film that perpetuates stereotyping and racial profiling. When Sandler is Method Man what does he do? Rob a guy. When he’s an Asian man he takes a thai chi class. The worst thing though is, he makes the claim “I can now walk in Chinatown.” WHAT? I use to live in New York and went to Chinatown every Sunday for Dim Sum, it’s not like an exclusive club. Also, Sandler is Jewish (well, duh) and his character is always eating pickles or asked if he wants a pickle. Is this a stereotype that I didn’t know about? Am I suppose to stop everything I'm doing every time I see a nice gherkin? What is meant to seem innocent comes across as mean and racist.

   Thomas McCarthy is one of my favorite directors, and up until this film he’s only made A + movies. He usually writes character studies about unconventional people coming together to be a family. I honestly don’t know why he tried to tackle Jewish mysticism. Also If I heard one more damn klezmer song in this film I was going to scream. No matter what the scene was or how serious it got klezmer music started playing. McCarthy knows better than that, you can tell a convincing story without music, and if you use music you need to change genres. Music in a film is like an emotion indicator. You can’t be happy all the time you need some variety. Maybe some strings to add sorrow? As director and writer McCarthy had the responsibility to tell a story. How he tried telling the story was unfortunate. Hopefully his next film “Spotlight” will make up for this debacle.

  “The Cobbler” isn’t just a mean spirited film, it’s also genre confused. Is this a family drama? A character study? Or for some reason at the end it thinks it’s a super hero movie. This film will upset a lot of people who normally see Thomas McCarthy movies. I understand he was trying to make an Adam Sandler movie just like Paul Thomas Anderson did with “Punch Drunk Love”. That experiment failed, and it’s time to go back to what you know. I can’t recommend “The Cobbler”, and it’s a real shame because it had such a clever premise. It’s playing OnDemand and in theaters now, but save your money. This Is a disappointingly bad film.

scott kurlandComment