The Cobbler is Scattershot But Amusing

Thomas McCarthy, the independent mind behind “The Station Agent,” “Win Win,” and “The Visitor,” made a film starring Adam Sandler, and after watching this fantasy curio, I wonder if Sandler’s presence fooled critics into thinking it was an awful movie. “The Cobbler” is not an awful movie. It’s scattershot, it’s not altogether what it wants to be, but it’s also a sweet little yarn about Max Simkin, a downtrodden cobbler in desperate need of finding his “thing” in life. He finds it in a rickety old stitcher that turns any man’s shoes into Max’s personal mystique: wear the shoes, look like the owner. It’s a magical trick passed down through the generations, and will ultimately lead Max to learning valuable life lessons of responsibility and blah blah blah…that’s the boring part, mostly because these life lessons aren’t exactly earned. But at first, Max predictably and amusingly uses it for personal shenanigans, albeit low-key shenanigans due to Max’s rather simple interior, no matter his exterior, which ranges from a sociopathic gangster to a wealthy pretty boy in the span of a week. This is the fun part, a high concept of relatively muted proportions, something that should’ve made for a mainstream yuk-fest but instead is played for refreshingly humble comedy. Sandler is wonderfully understated, if not exactly up to the task of conveying more intense human emotion when tasked to do so, a far cry from his career-best work in films like “Funny People” or “Punch-Drunk Love,” but more admirable than sleepwalking through “Pixels.” Steve Buscemi is a friendly, familiar face to Sandler fans, here playing exactly that as the barber next door to Simkin’s cobbling shop. Lynn Cohen is warm and appropriately Jewish as Max’s ailing mother. The veritable Dustin Hoffman pops in as a mysterious figure from their past, and even former rapper Method Man shows up as the aforementioned sociopathic gangster. While “The Cobbler” is a failure in terms of communicating that aging idea of “walking in another man’s shoes,” it duly succeeds at entertaining for a ninety-minute Netflix binge.

Grade: C+ 

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