The Cobbler is not Adam Sandler in zany mood, but he’s not being 100% serious either. He certainly pulls things back from his usual performances and enters mumbling mode, which is admittedly more watchable than he often is. He is Max, a cobbler who is forced to use an old shoemaking machine when his newer one breaks. He discovers that the machine has magical properties, as he now has the ability to put on somebody else’s shoes and literally become them.
At first Max thinks he’s going to be able to have some fun with his powers (including a creepily rapey sequence involving a cameo from Dan Stevens and a woman in a shower), but he soon gets caught up in a tricky situation with a bunch of bad guys. Looking into the lives of his customers also makes his re-evaluate the attempts to save his neighbourhood, which he’d previously ignored, and so he sets out to use his powers to stop the baddies destroying everything.
The Cobbler is a bit of an odd movie, which comes across as exactly what it is – indie filmmakers trying to make something mainstream but not totally having their heart in it. It doesn’t quite work as it fails hit the right beats to be typical mainstream fun – partly because you can almost feel director Tom McCarthy and co-writer Paul Sado almost cringing at the shorthand emotions and sleight of hand Hollywood-style movie of this ilk tend to demand – but nor does it have the makings of decent indie fare.
Having a Sandler who’s quite so low-key doesn’t help either, as the movie could have done with a little more magic and whimsy, but instead he seems to think he’s making something darker and more serious. It would actually be a pretty good performance in another movie, but doesn’t quite fit here.
It’s a pity, as putting on someone’s shoes and becoming them has plenty of potential, and there are moments when you can feel The Cobbler getting close to really running with it – particularly when Method Man is on-screen – but it never quite works out how to pull its high concept into something genuinely watchable. Plus, the ending is likely to have you throwing things at the screen, as it’s so disingenuous and ill-thought out it’s almost painful. It’s the ending of the film that The Cobbler wanted to be and not the one it is, which just highlights what a mess it is.
Overall Verdict: Everyone involved does their best, but nobody seems entirely sure what they’re doing, resulting in a movie that needed magic but instead got messiness.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac