One of life’s modern day mysteries is how Adam Sandler keeps getting money to make films. I don’t think he’s funny and I know I’m not alone in that assessment. For the second year in a row, Sandler has topped Forbes’ list of the Most Overpaid Actors in Hollywood (December 23, 2014). Nevertheless, Hollywood keeps making films with him and here’s why: In the Numbers Bankability Index™ for April 2015, Sandler came in 8th, ahead of – and you may not believe this – Leonardo DiCaprio (9th), Robert Downey, Jr. (12th), Bradley Cooper (14th) and Angelina Jolie (19th). I’m scratching my head because I just don’t get it.
Sandler’s latest outing, THE COBBLER, certainly won’t help his bankability. In the film, he plays Max Simkin, a single, late 40-something, Jewish teddy bear of a guy who is also a fourth generation shoe repairman with a shop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. One day, when his stitching machine breaks down, he goes down to his shop’s basement and uses his great-grandfather’s treadle-operated stitcher to repair the shoes of Leon Ludlow (Method Man), a local thug. Once re-soled, he notices that the shoes are the same size that he wears – 10-1/2 – so he slips them on his feet. To his surprise, Max is immediately transformed into Leon. The machine works some old world Yiddishe mojo.
When people say you shouldn’t criticize someone until you walk a mile in their shoes, I honestly believe that you’re not supposed to put on their shoes. Forget for a moment that Max became Leon when he put on Leon’s shoes. What he did was just icky, not to mention being completely unprofessional. It makes me want to disinfect my shoes the next time I bring them home from the repair shop. Max, though, is intrigued by the possibility of being anyone he wants – provided he has their shoes and they wear size 10-1/2. He quickly gets to work re-soling all the requisite shoes and boots in his shop using his great-grandfather’s machine. With just a quick change of footwear, Max becomes an aged hippie, a skinhead, a dead man, a rich white guy and an Hispanic transvestite.
The film goes from icky to creepy when he tells his ailing mother (Lynn Cohen) that his long-absent father (Dustin Hoffman) is coming home for dinner. We’re supposed to think that it’s beautiful that he’s giving his mother her long-held wish but what if she wanted to renew her marital relations with the man? They may be old but they’re not dead! Even so, what if she wanted her husband to plant a nice long kiss on her lips to make up for all those years of being away? This borders on Oedipus Rex creepy! And, although Max can look like the person whose shoes he is wearing, he is not endowed with anything more than their physical attributes. What if his mother had said, “Remember that time back in 1963 when …?” What would Max say? He may be walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but there’s no understanding of who that person is.
The creep factor is upped further when he puts on the shoes of his very handsome neighbour, known only in the film’s credits as “Dance-club disc jockey”. (Poor Dan Stevens, who plays the neighbour. He must be kicking himself for leaving DOWNTON ABBEY after Season 3.) Max enters DCDJ’s flat, which he shares with his very pretty model girlfriend, and watches as the girlfriend takes a shower. She invites him in, which seems to be every teenage boy’s dream, but then realises that if he takes off the shoes, his jig is up. This is supposed to be funny? Remember, Max is pushing 50. Creepy.
Max finally realises that he can put his new magical power to good use. Posing as Leon, he learns that a rich, New York property developer (Ellen Barkin) will stop at nothing to get an old man out of his flat. Armed with a duffel bag full of size 10-1/2 shoes (yes, that is the average size that American men wear but it doesn’t mean that everyone wears that size), he concocts an elaborate scheme to protect the old man, save the neighbourhood, get the developer arrested for intimidation and conspiracy to commit murder… and maybe find love with a woman who looks to be about half his age.
Even fans of Adam Sandler will be hard-pressed to find anything good to say about THE COBBLER. This is just an awful film.
Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 33:50.)
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