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Adam Sandler Plays It Straight As The Cobbler

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
himself again.

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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