Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 22, 2015)
Every once in a while, Adam Sandler veers from the usual broad comedy that made him a star and does something smaller and quirkier. 2014’s fantasy The Cobbler falls into that category.
Max Simkin (Sandler) leads a dull life as the proprietor of a small New York shoe repair shop. This business has remained in his family for generations, but the work leaves him unfulfilled.
Matters change when Max discovers an old stitcher machine. As Max learns when he uses it, shoes repaired with this device allow their wearer to enter the lives of the shoes’ owners. We follow Max’s adventures as he utilizes this amazing contraption – for good and for bad.
At the start of this review, I referred to Cobbler as a change of pace for Sandler, but that’s not entirely true. While it lacks a lot of the standard Sandler humor, it’s not as big a departure as it may initially appear.
As a story, Cobbler fits in with Sandler fare such as Click and Bedtime Stories, both of which offer comedic fantasies. Cobbler differs mainly in terms of tone, as it lacks the usual slapstick and broad humor.
Bot that Cobbler avoids all forms of wackiness, as the “body switch” concept offers occasionally glimpses of nutty humor. Still, the movie tends more toward whimsy that one expects from Sandler.
This works for a while, largely due to the basic premise. Obviously we’ve seen many movies with similar concepts – stuff like Big and Freaky Friday - but Cobbler boasts enough of a twist to allow it to stand on its own.
While the film comes with a somewhat forced sense of cuteness – the klemzer score gets more than a little cloying – it still delivers reasonable entertainment, at least during the phase where Max discovers his “powers”. These moments offer some fun and we enjoy the ride as Max delights in his new abilities.
After that, however, a plot about an evil land developer (Ellen Barkin) and her henchmen kicks in and The Cobbler loses its way. Initially an agreeable fable, the story goes darker than it should and becomes a mishmash of plot points without a satisfying payoff.
We also get detours related to Max’s personal life. These can be seen from a mile away and feel contrived, so they do more to harm the movie than help. I find them to be unnecessary, even if they do a lot to leave room for a potential sequel.
As Max, Sandler offers competent work. He tones down his usual routine but doesn’t exactly stretch himself too much in the part. While I don’t think Sandler adds much to the film, he doesn’t hurt it, either.
The Cobbler received pretty brutal reviews, and I have to admit I don’t think it deserves them; while flawed, the movie comes with enough entertainment to be mediocre. However, those problems ensure that it remains a disappointment.