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.
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