The Cobbler (2014)
Max Simkin repairs shoes 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 heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers and see the world in a new way. Sometimes walking in another man’s shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are.
Genre : Comedy/Drama/Fantasy
Country : USA
Adam Sandler : Max Simkin
Steve Buscemi : Jimmy
Dustin Hoffman : Abraham Simkin
Director : Thomas McCarthy
“He had no idea who I was.
I could be anybody I want.
This is great.”
The beginning of the film was, in my opinion, the most successful of the entire film. The run-up to the ultimate story. It had something of an old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale with an old bum knocking at the door of the great-great grandfather of Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) and asking for shelter. Nobody wanted to take him inside and in gratitude the unknown left behind an antique sewing machine for repairing shoes. We are witnessing a sort of Jewish family conference discussing an important matter in old Yiddish and you’ll see someone working with the old sewing machine while telling his son the whole story. Now Max owns the shoe shop which is run by the family Simkin for years now. It’s located in a neighborhood that is doomed to disappear. However, it’s obvious that Max isn’t really happy with his boring life and he realises that he’ll lead this hopeless life until his retirement. Until a difficult client insists on repairing his shoes and Max is forced to use the old sewing machine (because his broke down). After repairing them he puts them on out of curiosity. To his surprise he takes the form of the owner of that pair of shoes, what gives rise to all sorts of chaotic situations.
It looks a bit like “Tuxedo” with Jackie Chan, except that now the shoes take care of the complete transformation. This fairy tale had so much potential and yet it became an ordinary “metamorphosis farce” which reminded me of some old theater play. Such a play with several doors where people appear and disappear at the right time. This mixed with the clumsy and chaotic way of acting as the late Jerry Lewis did and you have a good idea of what “The Cobbler” looks like. A well-known story in which various metamorphoses provide the final solution. Sometimes touching and funny, but mostly it’s just a sad affair. And for once it isn’t Sandler’s fault.
It’s not that Sandler tries to bring banal humor or that it occurs to be forced, but the whole story is confusing and misses its target completely. The fact that you’re in someone else’s shoes and you can take over a different personality, offers perspectives. But ultimately it’s only used to pull some infantile and predictable pranks and subsequently dismantle an unscrupulous real estate plot. The only admirable thing Max did with his new powers, was taking over his father’s personality (Abraham Simkin played by Dustin Hoffman) ,who disappeared years ago out of his life, to surprise his mother. Fortunately this demented woman is already of respectable age and probably doesn’t have a lot of troublesome hormones anymore. Otherwise a Freudian complex situation could arise. And the denouement is too bizarre for words. What finally brings us to the next sore point. The creator of this story didn’t know which way he wanted to go. Is it a comedy? A fairy tale? A sort of parody about superheroes? Or is it a story with a profound moral? The author was apparently disorientated. And so was I obviously.
As I said before, Sandler isn’t the one to blame. For once I found him bearable and perfect for this role as the sad and washed out cobbler who, thanks to a magical machine, enjoys life again. The supporting cast Dustin Hoffman (a kind of Mr. Magorium), Steve Buscemi (always a pleasure to watch him play), Lynn Cohen and Method Man, weren’t groundbreaking but gave it a professional touch. The renditions aren’t the problem (or better “where the shoe pinches”) but I’m sure that a marriage between comedy and drama will always be doomed to fail. As the proverb says : Let the cobbler stick to his last. (Keep that in mind Sandler !)