There’s something missing in the new Adam Sandler movie. Notable in their absence in this story of a cobbler with the uncanny ability to change into other people, are jokes of, how to put this delicately… a gastrointestinal nature, one of the hallmarks of the Sandleronian oeuvre.
In “The Cobbler” he plays Max Simkin, a shoe repairman from a long line of cobblers. Like his father and grandfather before him, he runs the family business on New York City’s Lower East Side. He’s dissatisfied with his work, with his non-existent love life and living with his elderly mom. When he repairs Leon Ludlow’s (Method Man) shoes on an old stitching machine, unused since his father left the business years ago, Max discovers the machine imbues the shoes with the magical power of transformation. With that discover Max steps into a world of wonder where he can be anyone he wants… as long as he has their shoes and they are size 10 ½.
This is a slight movie; a one-joke idea stretched to feature length with the addition of a crime subplot. There will be no spoilers here, but let it be known that by the end of the movie he becomes known as The Cobbler, a guardian of souls.
There are jokes to be made about walking a mile in a man’s shoes before you can presume to know them, but this movie doesn’t make them. In fact, it makes very few actual jokes. There are laughs but this isn’t one of those Adam Sandler movies that strains to make you giggle several times per minute.
It’s one of his kinder, gentler fantasies, like “Click” or “Bedtime Stories.” Sandler is the likeable center of the story, and he carries it through the first half until the plot starts to become cluttered with characters and later, sentiment. The amazing transformation shoes could have been used to deepen the story by showing Max learn about himself as he learns how the other half lives. Instead he goes undercover to get money to buy his mother a headstone which leads him to help an old man keep his apartment and possibly even get a date with a pretty activist (“Fruitvale Station’s” Melonie Diaz). Deep it ain’t.
Then it flies off into a wild flight of fancy that I still can’t decide if it is the greatest or stupidest plot twist ever in a movie. There’ll be no spoilers here, but let’s just say the film is set up to be the first in a series.
“The Cobbler” has more sole than soul, and is a bit flatfooted in its approach to the story, but it is a nice change to see an Adam Sandler movie and not be bombarded with bathroom humor.