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  Cobbler, The The Shoe's On The Other Foot
Year: 2014
Director: Tom McCarthy
Stars: Adam Sandler, Melonie Diaz, Steve Buscemi, Method Man, Ellen Barkin, Fritz Weaver, Dustin Hoffman, Lynn Cohen, Kim Cloutier, Dan Stevens, Wayne Wilderson, Adrian Black, Yul Vazquez, Craig Walker, Grizz Chapman, Greta Lee, Dasha Polanco
Genre: Comedy, Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Over a hundred years ago in New York City, a group of Jewish businessmen and traders met up one night to complain about their landlord, who was bleeding them dry, and ponder their next move. It was decided one of them should do something with his cobbler's stitcher, because it was magical, and he was given the landlord's shoes to help solve their issues, but now, in the present, the heir to that cobbler's shop has no idea about what he has in his basement and the power it could give him. Indeed, Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) is moping through his existence without much purpose, and his meagre living is all that keeps him going to support himself and his ageing mother (Lynn Cohen) now his father is no longer with them...

At the same time Spotlight was making a big splash in cinemas and at the Oscars, director Tom McCarthy had another film in release, though that was largely going straight to DVD after a perfunctory cinema showing in occasional territories. There couldn't have been more contrast between The Cobbler and his serious investigative journalism drama, both in subject matter and the general reaction, with the fantasy of his shoe-based plot bringing about some deeply unimpressed reactions from critics and audiences alike. Fair enough, some made excuses for The Cobbler, but excuses were what they were since you had to assume it was intended to be endearing and funny.

So why was it offputting and actively offensive in places, not to mention labouring under a storyline that strained credibility to insulting degrees? There are some films where you think, fine, it didn't achieve what it set out to do, but it was a brave try, whereas here you could not tell if what they ended up with was anything the filmmakers were proud of or not, or even what they were setting out their goals as other than offering entertainment. The premise was something akin to a superhero origin story of the kind that had become so popular at the time, but you presumed because few would accept Sandler as part of the Marvel Universe that he was relegated to a power where he put on other people's shoes.

The magic stitcher, when used on the shoes of a customer, gives Max the ability to turn into that person when he places the shoes on his feet (they must be size ten-and-a-half), thus creating a doppelganger of the owner in a science fiction TV episode way. But wait, aren't doubles in sci-fi TV usually evil? Why, yes they are, and what Max gets up to could have been worse, but maybe not by much. His main shtick is turning into black people and committing crimes such as stealing other people's shoes so he can drive their flash cars, or eating at restaurants for free, but when he gets the chance to appear as a model’s boyfriend, the only thing that stops him joining her in the shower and violating her when she thinks he's someone else is that he'd have to take the shoes off then the game would be up. Otherwise we'd have a cute rapist story on our hands.

There was a bigger plot than that once Max had got being a criminal out of his system, so pausing briefly to appear as his father (Dustin Hoffman!) to romance his own mother for an evening (because she misses Dustin), he sets about putting the world to rights. If you’re not revolted by him enough as it is, he even ends up taking a life, though we're not supposed to be bothered because the victim was an evil black man (are you sensing issues here?), but for the most part Max tries to help community social worker Melonie Diaz stopping urban blight and preventing Fritz Weaver being turfed out of his apartment by Ellen Barkin, a corporate vampire who has a gangster's influence over the area. As if all this had not been confounding enough, everything was resolved in a would-be optimistic twist that raised far more questions than it answered, not to spoil anything but... well, why? What possible purpose could it have served to behave that way to your family? Almost perversely fascinating to witness how talented people can go astray when no one tells them "Um, don't do that." Music by John Debney and Nick Urata.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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