There are good movies, bad movies, and many, many others in that gray area in-between. One might call The Cobbler a noble failure, but I’m not sorry I saw it. I so admire Tom McCarthy’s work as a writer-director (The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win) that I can’t begrudge him a misfire…and his new movie is anything but dull.
Adam Sandler—yes, that Adam Sandler—stars as the world-weary owner of a shoe-repair shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He inherited the place, and the profession, from his father and his father before him, but he has no passion for his work. The barber next door (Steve Buscemi) tries to cheer and encourage him, without success, and a local organizer (Melonie Diaz) fails to enlist his support for preserving the neighborhood. One day, a thuggish customer (Clifford “Method Man” Smith) drops off an expensive pair of alligator shoes. When his stitching machine short circuits, Sandler is forced to use an old-fashioned, foot-pedal antique he’s kept in the basement. When he then tries on the luxurious shoes, out of curiosity, he is transformed into a living replica of their owner. The minute he takes them off, he’s
I won’t reveal what happens next, but needless to say, the plot thickens. There are many vignettes, both odd and amusing, in the screenplay by McCarthy and Paul Sado. The whimsy turns dark at times, but that’s what keeps The Cobbler interesting, at least until the resolution, which is so preposterous that even the most generous viewer might choke on it.
Sandler does a good job in the leading role, which calls on him to be uncharacteristically low-key and even impassive. He’s surrounded by good actors like Buscemi, Diaz, Smith, Ellen Barkin, Dan Stevens, Fritz Weaver, and Dustin Hoffman.
This marks Tom McCarthy’s first foray into the realm of fantasy, and while it doesn’t quite work, it’s an honest effort. I hope he tries again.