Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Cobbler (2014)

Fig 1 - The Cobbler Poster
It's interesting, the way in which the words 'Adam Sandler' have become synonymous with the words 'bad film'. When I think back to his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (2002), I imagine this was a time in which people saw a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Sandler. The whole character was nuanced and passionate, which I'm sure had a lot to do with the writing, but proved forever more that Sandler is capable of acting. He is able to put some effort into his work. Even to a lesser extent, Sandler's performance in Click (2006), which pales in comparison obviously, but at least he was trying to go for something with a tad more dimension to it. And in the eleven years that followed, his spiral into mediocrity only became more painful and vulgar to witness. Which brings us to The Cobbler.

First and foremost, and I think it goes without saying, this is a slight detour from my Top 250 rundown. My girlfriend and I found ourselves perusing a vast expanse of Netflix content and took it upon ourselves to deviate from the more 'praised' films on offer, which led to us watching The Cobbler. I'd definitely heard of this film but I'm still yet to know anyone who's even seen it, let alone had a good word to say about it. And I think it's reception is best summed up by the Golden Raspberry nomination it achieved for 'Worst Screen Combo' - credited directly to "Adam Sandler and any pair of shoes".

The film starts with a flashback to New York in 1903, in which we see a group of men congregate for a late-night meeting in 'Simkin Shoe Repair' to discuss how to take care of a crook who is becoming a threat to the local businesses. The owner, Pinchas Simkin, takes a pair of the crook's shoes down to the basement where he works his magic on them with a 'special stitching machine', which he then explains the signifigance of to his son. We then cut to present day in which a descendant of Pinchas named Max (Adam Sandler) is now running the shoe repair store, and when his usual stitching machine breaks down, he ventures into the basement and begins using the 'special' machine for his repairs. Unbeknownst to him, by repairing someones shoes with the 'special' machine, by wearing them it gives the cobbler the ability to literally transform into the shoes' owner. Max then proceeds to use his newfound ability to, among other things, mug people and generally steal things, break into people's homes and even attempt to have sex with someone else's girlfriend (until he realises he can't take off the shoes, of course).

Fig 2 - The Cobbler - Max tries on the shoes
There are additional subplots about Max's estranged father, an apartment complex buy out and a potential love interest but sadly all of those things happen once the already-weak initial concept has been stretched razor thin. Which is a shame really, since the 'walking in someone else's shoes' metaphor could have actually been developed into a semi-decent story. What's even more of a shame is that the film's writer/director Tom McCarthy is responsible for a number of fantastic writing credits, including films like Pixar's Up (2009) and the Academy Award winning Spotlight (2014). So clearly some thought went into the screenplay for this. And honestly, once Adam Sandler transformed for the first time, I got a slight jolt of "oh okay, where are we going with this, I wonder?" but as it turns out, absolutely nowhere. The moderately interesting concept that the opening offers is in no way redeemable for the snooze-fest of an hour that proceeds it. Even as a kids film, (which it absolutely isn't, since the central character's moral compass is as flimsy as the shoes he mends) the premise wouldn't be enough to keep me interested for an hour and a half.

There is a plethora of great talent in this film too, all of which have nothing to chew on in the script department. Even the additional likes of Steve Buscemi, Wayne Wilderson and Dustin Hoffman are not able to save this film from itself. A whole host of small-time actors are given some hefty screen-time here too (who of course have to act like Adam Sandler the whole time). And this may have been the most redeeming quality the film offers up. It's almost as if the concept was written in order to give Sandler as little screen-time as possible, and for that I thank the writers dearly. Other than this, there is nothing to take away from The Cobbler whatsoever. Filled with outdated jokes, morally-backwards storytelling and an excruciating amount of filler, The Cobbler needs more than a magical old machine to be fixed.


Fig. 1 The Cobbler Poster (2014) From: The Cobbler - Directed by: Tom McCarthy

Fig. 2 The Cobbler Screenshot (2014) From: The Cobbler - Directed by: Tom McCarthy

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