The Cobbler (2015)

Posted by Joel Copling on March 31, 2015

Buried somewhere beneath the steaming pile that is "The Cobbler," there is an affecting film to be had. The problem (and it really is just one of many) is that I'm not entirely sure said affecting film was really about anything. I said this was one among many problems, though, and I meant it: The affecting film is six-feet-under with the weight of a lame-brained, flat-footed dramedy that only elicits a single laugh and more than one roll of the eyes. In the end, it doesn't even seem to make entire sense of its own conceptual logistics, resulting in a hodgepodge of plot developments that fall flat and tonal shifts that repeatedly stab the thing until it is dead.

Max Simkin (Adam Sandler, looking more disinterested in being onscreen than he has in a long, long time) is a simple guy. He runs the shoemaking workshop he inherited from a father who disappeared years earlier. He doesn't charge much for his cobbling services, but he's getting by contentedly enough. After stumbling upon an old stitching machine left to him by his father, he also discovers that the apparatus has the magical powers to transform him into whomever owns shoes repaired by the thing. Soon, Max is engaged in the type of identity theft that mostly dodges the bullet of internal logic by rarely having the Max version of people running into their real selves (a leap in logic that screenwriters Tom McCarthy, who also directed, and Paul Sado never confront beyond two scenes of absurd violence).

He impersonates a brutal gangster-type named Leon (Cliff "Method Man" Smith, offering up more screen time than his pitiful performance deserves) who beats on women when he isn't insulting them and owes an Evil Land Developer played by Ellen Barkin some money for some sort of job. This part of the affair is insufferable and strangely mean-spirited, including a scene in which Max disguises himself as a transvestite and lures Leon to an apartment, an encounter that spirals into the darkest joke the film means to commit to the screen. Max' unassuming, good-guy nature is pretty much immediately stripped away, yet the film just soldiers on in its quirky mcquirk way (John Debney and Nick Urata's score is the biggest offender, alternating between a boppy mid-1940s tune and one best found in an early 1990s teen-movie melodrama).

Otherwise, he just impersonates people for the heck of it, so the film has downplaying petty crime going for it, too. And do not misunderstand, for that's precisely what this behavior is. He steps, literally, into other people's shoes for the pleasure of enjoying their stuff (though the film never really clarifies how he is able to afford some of that stuff, unless he randomly has unlimited access to their bank accounts, which implies he's also lazy with the security features of this new power he holds) and never once considers this wrong-headed or anything. "The Cobbler" has the intelligence of a stalk of broccoli and the personality of a rhinoceros run-amok.

Film Information

Adam Sandler (Max Simkin), Steve Buscemi (Jimmy), Cliff "Method Man" Smith (Leon Ludlow), Ellen Barkin (Elaine Greenawalt), Melonie Diaz (Carmen Herrara), Dan Stevens (Emiliano), Fritz Weaver (Mr. Solomon), Dustin Hoffman (Abraham Simkin), Lynn Cohen (Ma Simkin).

Directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Paul Sado.

Rated PG-13 (violence, language, brief partial nudity).

99 minutes.

Released in select cities on March 13, 2015.