Recently Adam Sandler has been taking a bit if a kicking from the critics with regard to his recent output. His next UK release, Pixels (already out in the US) has been mauled and the usually critic proof star has seen box office returns fall. Some are calling this the beginning of his career decline. Much as I don’t like the majority of his work I find this a little difficult to believe. He has appeared in a few good movies in his time. Punch Drunk Love and Funny People show another side to him that prove he can act and has a range. His latest film, The Cobbler may surprise a few people.
Max (Adam Sandler) is a cobbler in the same shop that his father and grandfather ran in their time. He lives with his mother and does nothing except work and take good care of her. His father disappeared years ago and Max is just plodding along. While doing a rush repair job his stitching machine breaks down. He has no choice but to finish the job on an old pedal powered machine. When he tries on the shoes after he finishes he finds that he has become the owner of the shoes. The stitcher has some kind of power. While sampling other peoples lives in the shoes, he finds that there is a plot to clear a local street of all its residents so a property developer (Ellen Barkin) can sell it on for a fortune. Max has to do something.
The film is a take on the old saying about only knowing a person when you have walked in his shoes. In this case literally. It is a far gentler and subtle form of comedy than we are accustomed to from Sandler. There is not really any laugh out loud funny bits and the humour is more low key. Even in the montage sequence where Max is trying on different shoes is not wacky. Sandler plays the role of the downtrodden Max very well. It is a minimal performance from him which perfectly suits the character. It is consistent with the pacing and the mood of the film.
There is a strong supporting cast which elevates the film. Steve Buscemi teams up with Sandler for the tenth time as the barber shop owner Jimmy. He always is on hand to lend support and sage counsel. Buscemi is perfectly suited to the world weary personality that is Jimmy. It is a role he has played many times before. Ellen Barkin as the main antagonist is channeling Cruella DeVille. She is the ultimate bad ass baddie and does all but growl at everyone who displeases her.
The film is a slight departure for director Thomas McCarthy. It is more of a mainstream film than his past efforts. He keeps the film flowing nicely and really catches the mood of isolation and loneliness well in the visuals. The soundtrack is utilized for good effect with the music all coming from traditional Jewish style tunes. It fits in well with the Lower East Side setting and the heritage of the principal character.
Overall, a reasonably entertaining film with a low key and enjoyable performance from Adam Sandler.
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