by Mike Reistetter
The independent film “The Cobbler” saw its wide release in select theaters this past March.
Originally debuting as a part of the Toronto International Film Festival, “The Cobbler” was helmed by writer/director Thomas McCarthy, known for two of his critically acclaimed indie films in the past (The Station Agent, The Visitor).
The Cobbler starred funnyman Adam Sandler, who briefly chose to venture into the comedy-drama genre, unaffiliated with his own brand and production company, Happy Madison Inc.
This is not the first time Sandler has broken his comfort zone and attempted to showcase his acting range and ability to work with “real” directors and writers. Sandler earned a Golden Globe nomination for his dramatic turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love” in 2002, and also delivered what many felt was an Oscar-snubbed performance in Mike Binder’s 2007 drama, “Reign Over Me”.
However, not even the charm appeal of a fan-favorite like Sandler could manipulate critics into enjoying the “The Cobbler.”
Sandler stars as Max Simkin, a depressed, middle class man who owns and operates a small shoe repair store. He inherited the store from his father, who abandoned his family years prior.
One day, Simkin finds himself rummaging through the basement and comes across an old-fashioned sole-repair machine. After using the machine to repair a man named Leon’s soles, Max is alarmed to find that he had literally transformed himself into Leon by wearing the newly repaired shoes.
Slowly, the movie unravels and escalates to demonstrate the impact of the freedom Simkin now feels. He possesses the ability to be anyone he wants, just as long as he uses the mystical machinery to repair the shoes of those who enter his shop.
Unfortunately, the film had a rather lackluster third act, and failed to approach with a compelling angle.
As a fan of Adam Sandler, I will give his individual performance a thumbs-up, as both his acting and the film were certain steps up from the usual crass humor dominating the majority of his films, making him an open target for critics.
The 21st century has generally been unkind to Sandler, who many felt that his stardom peaked in the 90s, with a successful string of comedies including (but not limited to) “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer,” “The Waterboy,” and “Big Daddy.”
Let’s take a similarly charged Adam Sandler film of the past, which much like “The “Cobbler” dealt with and addressed the themes of magic realism and the importance of family.
2006’s “Click,” notably the only Sandler film to earn an Oscar Nomination (Best Makeup) followed Sandler as Michael, a workaholic that is given the chance to eliminate his stressors when he acquires a universal remote that allows him to control his life.
The remote eventually starts predicting patterns, and develops an autopilot function that makes Michael miss important moments in his family’s life, sending Michael down a slippery slope that he cannot undo.
The ending of “Click” revealed the film’s sequences set in the future were in fact a dream Michael had after he fell asleep on a bed in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond where he bought the remote earlier in the film.
Michael’s hypothetical broken relationships with family members and tremendously sad death, juxtaposed with brilliant insertion of traditional “moral of the story” tactics triggered an impulse in many that a film like “The Cobbler” simply could not.
“The Cobbler’s” “happy ending” was the mundane cop-out that everyone forgets to recognize as ever existing in “Click.”
Just when you thought Simkin was about to learn his lesson about the dangers of literally “walking in others shoes,” the film hits you with an unnecessary plot twist, that left me personally uttering the word “disappointing” as the credits rolled.
Barely good and fairly watchable, “The Cobbler” shows that Sandler is willing to challenge himself and take on more dramatic roles, as he surely has proven he has the talent to pull it off. Now, it’s just a matter of him choosing the right roles.