Movie Review - The Cobbler

This is probably Tom McCarthy's attempt at doing a super-hero film. By the end, it feels like a comic book, origin story has just unfolded. Instead of super strength and a cape, the mild-mannered man here simply has a magical stitcher, which fixes shoes and imbues them with a special ability.

Whenever the man fixes shoes using the old, magical stitcher and puts them on his feet, he becomes the person who owns the shoes, or at least he looks like them.

For example, if he stitches the shoes of a beautiful woman, then if he wears those shoes, he will become a literal mirror-image of that woman. In essence, he becomes that woman, or it could be like the Quantum Leap premise where his body doesn't change. The image of the woman or other person merely surrounds him.

Adam Sandler plays Max Simkin, the lonely shoe-repair-man. Of course, shoe-repair-man is not the greatest super-hero name ever. Max actually runs a repair shop he inherited from his absentee father on a street in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. He's good at the job, but he apparently doesn't like it.

Melanie Diaz plays Carmen, a go-getter who is working to stop a greedy developer from buying up properties in the area and tearing them down to make condos or shopping centers. She's pretty, smart and dedicated. Yet, she's shocked when she asks Max to sign her petition to stop the developer and Max says no.

Sandler plays Max as a bearded slub who walks around tired and listless, and generally frustrated. He goes home and looks after his mother. He seems lonely. His lingering looks at Carmen indicate that, and it's more than just a guy leering at a pretty girl. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the gumption or the impetus to ask Carmen out, or have any kind of social life. It feels like a riff on Sandler's character in Punch-Drunk Love.

Max connects with Carmen when he starts using his special ability and uncovers the plot by the greedy developer. It's all by happenstance and contrivance, but Max uncovers the plot, and helps to stop the developer with Carmen along for the ride.

Prior to all that, this movie revels in some possibilities that his special ability brings. He can look like or impersonate other people, but immediately his actions make him reprehensible, or at least very creepy. At first, it's interesting when the possibility arises of Max using his power to explore other cultures.

Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy doesn't really delve into this idea though. Max walks around impersonating an Indian man. He then walks around as a Chinese man, but, instead of exploring Indian or Chinese culture, McCarthy gives it a superficial pass. McCarthy rather would make Max a jerk. He uses his ability to skip out on paying at a restaurant. He also steals a car. It's just so petty and ridiculous.

Dan Stevens (The Fifth Estate and The Guest) plays Emiliano, a handsome, young guy who Max impersonates. Max wants to use Emiliano's attractiveness to get girls, pick them up at the bar and have sex with them. Max tries but gives up rather quickly. His mistake is crossing into Emiliano's personal life and private space. Instead of correcting that mistake, he gives up, which in reality is good, but McCarthy missed an opportunity to explore something profound, especially when it's dropped that Emiliano might be bisexual.

However, the movie really goes south when Max decides to impersonate his own father, Abraham, played by Dustin Hoffman. Max does so in order to take his mother out on a date, and this is by far the creepiest thing I've perhaps seen in any film ever. Thankfully, McCarthy skirts over the truly disgusting areas.

One scene we see Max pretending to be his father slow-dancing with his mother, played by Lynn Cohen. Questions that instantly arise are what does he say, what if she wanted to kiss, make-out with him or go further. Would he go as far as having sex with his mom?

Unfortunately, the whole super-hero aspect quickly falls apart. Even though it's by accident, Max commits a murder. He feels guilty about it, but the big question at the end is where does he go from here. He stumbled into heroics this time, but the avenues he should have pursued in this film wouldn't feel appropriate after all this.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and brief partial nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.


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