The Cobbler Blu-ray Review
Adam Sandler has done some nice work not playing his usual immature man-child roles. In “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Spanglish” he showed that he could act a little. Those roles though are few and far between and he routinely resorts back to his typical juvenile hijinks. In THE COBBLER, Sandler shows again that he can effectively play a normal everyman. Unfortunately for Sandler, the film is a complete mess that goes in all sorts of directions. That is a shame because there are talented people involved here.
The film starts out in 1903. A group of Jewish business men are concerned about a man who has been threatening their livelihoods. They give a cobbler the shoes of the man. He goes down in the basement to a stitching machine. He later tells his son how important the machine is.
We then transport to the present day where we meet Max Simkin (Adam Sandler). Max is a cobbler like his father and his grandfather before him. He does not particularly like his job or his status in life. He is good at his job, but he’s just going through the motions. His spirits perk up when an attractive young woman named Carmen (Melonie Diaz) comes into his shop. She informs him that businesses in the Lower East Side of New York are being forced out. She wants him to sign a petition to stop these actions from taking place. Max doesn’t seem excited about doing this and seems more eager on how much money he can make by cashing out. She tries to reason with him that the neighborhood would lose a lot with the loss of the local color. She invites him out, but much to his chagrin it is to a rally instead of a date.
Max lives with his elderly mother. She has signs of dementia. She doesn’t remember what she asks Max on occasion or the situation of various people. She and Max are still troubled that his father and her husband walked out on them. Her one big wish is to have dinner with him again. Max’s only friend seems to be Jimmy (Steve Buscemi), the barber who has a place next door to his. Jimmy acts like a wiser older brother to Max. He constantly calls him “Kid” which is a bit strange since Buscemi and Sandler aren’t that far apart in age.
Max’s life changes when a man named Ludlow (Method Man) enters his world. Ludlow is what you would call the local tough guy. He roughs up people in the neighborhood who don’t pay for his protection. He is a jerk in every way. He treats Max with such condescension when he gives him his shoes to repair. The life changing part comes while Max is fixing the shoes. His machine breaks, so he goes to the basement to use the old time stitching machine. He finds out that the stitching from this is magical. He can become the person just by putting on their shoes.
Director/Screenwriter Thomas McCarthy has had great success previously with “The Station Agent”, “Win Win” and “The Visitor”. Those were all well told stories with a great feel for what they were. THE COBBLER does not know what it is. It veers wildly from fantasy to drama to comedy to crime caper. This ultimately hurts the film. Some of the scenes made me a bit uncomfortable. For instance Max has a model and her boyfriend as customers. He takes his shoes and tries to pick up women with his new and improved face. That’s not the uncomfortable part. He then goes to their apartment and almost has sex with the model. The only thing that stops him is that he has to take off the shoes. If he does that he goes back to his former self. This goes against the nice guy image of Max and just presents all sorts of problems when you think about it.
McCarthy devotes much of the movie to the crime world of Ludlow. This always felt half baked and not well written. A slum lord played by Ellen Barkin comes into play here. That character just doesn’t seem fully developed and you don’t get the sense of her full motivations here. Some of the dramatic scenes stick out compared to the more fanciful scenes where Max is having a bit of fun with the shoes. It just doesn’t work.
THE COBBLER is a misfire that had some potential. Unfortunately it veers too much from genre to genre.
Video: New York is presented well on the screen. There are no complaints there.
Audio: The sound was solid throughout. I didn’t have much trouble hearing the dialogue.
The Making of The Cobbler (15:03): The actors and filmmakers give their thoughts on the film. The script, cast, director and the New York location are gone into more detail here.