If you ask me, Adam Sandler has gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. Sure, he’s churned out some real clunkers of late (Funny People, Grown Ups 2 and the virtually unwatchable Jack and Jill come quickly to mind) and even his early “stupid funny” classics like Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy are an acquired taste at best, but when Sandler truly stretches himself in more challenging fare like Punch-Drunk Love, The Wedding Singer and Spanglish, he has surprising depth and range as an actor. Yes, I just gave Adam Sandler props for being a good actor. Deal with it.
So when Sandler teamed up last year with indie auteur Tom McCarthy (the Oscar-nominated writer-director of such art house hits as The Station Agent, The Visitor and Win Win) for the star-studded comedy fable The Cobbler, I was expecting big things. Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Clifford “Method Man” Smith, Melonie Diaz, Ellen Barkin and Dustin Hoffman in a Woody Allen-ish magical realism-infused comedy drama co-written (with Paul Sado) and directed by Tom McCarthy? What could go wrong?
Sadly, the answer in this case is: just about everything.
An awkward mess of a movie about a fourth generation NYC cobbler (Sandler) with the unique ability to transform himself into his customers by literally walking in their shoes, The Cobbler starts off like a really great The Purple Rose of Cairo-era Woody Allen comedy. Unfortunately, after a series of baffling and truly annoying plot twists midway through, The Cobbler takes a hard left turn into crazy town and ends like a movie even a Small Time Crooks-era Woody Allen would think twice about finishing. Simply put, things fall apart faster than the peeling leather sole on Method Man’s crocodile uppers.
Sappy when it should be heartfelt, unintentionally funny when it should be sad, The Cobbler’s biggest sin is that it takes a charming, offbeat premise and pummels it to death with cloying, cliché, “only in a movie” stupidity.
The good news, if there is any, is that the cast is uniformly great – especially Diaz who shines as a fetching community organizer with a heart of gold – and aside from a few shockingly bad “big dramatic moments” in the third act, Sandler emerges from the rubble of this cinematic train wreck relatively unscathed. Of course, with a reputation like Sandler’s, that’s not really saying much.
And while Sandler haters will surely see The Cobbler as further proof of the comedian’s diminishing returns as an actor, die-hard fans (myself included) can comfort themselves in the knowledge that Sandler’s other big 2015 release, the hilariously geeky video-game comedy Pixels, is due to hit inflight entertainment screens everywhere next month.
In other words, hope, like goofy Adam Sandler movies about stunted adolescent man-children, springs eternal. And amen for that.
Now playing on select Emirates, Malaysia Airlines and Aer Lingus flights worldwide, The Cobbler is also available via streaming on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.