19th May2015

‘The Cobbler’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Adam Sandler, Method Man, Adam B. Shapiro, Ellen Barkin, Evan Neumann, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi, Dascha Polanco, Dustin Hoffman, Yul Vasquez, Kim Cloutier | Written by Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado | Directed by Thomas McCarthy

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Max Simkin (Sandler) is a fourth generation cobbler working in the same New York shop that has been in his family for generations. Disenchanted with the grind of daily life, Max stumbles upon a magical shoe-stitching machine that allows him to step into the lives of his customers – literally – and see how the other half lives, and finds that sometimes walking in another man’s shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are…

Thomas McCarthy, director of the critically acclaimed The Station Agent and the fantastic Paul Giamatti starrer Win Win, would seem like an odd choice to direct an Adam Sandler movie, but then The Cobbler is no ordinary Adam Sandler film. For out has gone the gross-out gags, the outrageous behaviour, the lowbrow comedy and the madcap slapstick, and in comes a more introspective, more subdued Sandler with gags resting on the shoulders of the rest of the cast, with Sandler himself in a much more sombre tone.

There has, in recent years, a backlash against Adam Sandler for making lowbrow comedies that – according to the likes of Variety and THR – are made for Sandler and his buddies and NOT the paying audience but the same cannot be said of The Cobbler. Some might say Sandler has listened to his critics and tried something new. And whilst this is not as much of a depature for Sandler as the likes of Punch Drunk Love, Funny People and the more recent Men, Women & Children, this is for all intents and purposes a new kind of Adam Sandler movie.

You see, The Cobbler is a body-swap wish fulfilment comedy that not only allows Sandler to take a back seat to the onscreen action but also allows the rest of the cast, in particular Method Man as a local street thug and wannabe gangster Leon and an almost unrecognisable Yul Vazquez as the transexual Marsha, to shine. Even Steve Buscemi, often reduced to nothing more than a cameo role in many of Sandler’s previous films (although even when in small roles Buscemi always delivers – see “Crazy Eyes” in Mr. Deeds), has a meatier role that allows the actor to stretch more than his comedy legs as Sandler’s next door neighbour and caring friend Jimmy the Barber.

As a fan of Sandler’s movies even I wasn’t expecting a film as low-key and thoughtful as this. To compare The Cobbler to the rest of Sandler’s body of work, the closest example of a similar film would be Click which, whilst it had Sandler going into his typical over-the-top angry man slapstick on a number of occassions, shares a very similar sense of sentimentality. Could we be seeing Sandler growing up? Not likely given the controversies surrounding his latest, Netflix exclusive, movie. More likely Sandler is expanding his comedic horizons – after all he can’t play a manchild for the rest of his career, can he?

A pleasant surprise for this Adam Sandler fan, The Cobbler is available on iTunes (US) now. The film is released in the UK on 14th December for download and 4th January on DVD and On-Demand.

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