In The Cobbler Sandler’s character Max Simkin is a New York cobbler, with a stitching machine that allows him to take on the appearance of the owner of the shoes. Suspending our disbelief for long enough to engage with this ill-explained plot device, we see Simkin begin to harness his new found ability with a series of self-serving activities. So far, so lacking in meaning, this harmless silliness is in a remarkably similar vein to other body-swap films – 13 Going on 30, Freaky Friday, The Change Up and Tom Hanks’ seminal Big.
However, as the single strand of plot begins to unravel itself, the fatal flaw of the film comes to light. The childish humour stoops to playground name-calling and offensive racial stereotyping. The antagonist of the film comes in the form of Method Man, playing a one-dimensional thief with a sideline in domestic violence. The jarring conflict of the childlike Simkin opposite a black American gang makes for awkward watching and very uncomfortable anachronisms. Melonie Diaz’s character presents the only opportunity for the film to have a wider message through a plotline about preserving the local area and the people within it. But, when the characters presented to us as the locals of the area aren’t particularly likeable, this message fails to hit home.
This is the first film where Sandler’s Jewish heritage has really been bought to the forefront: fun fact – the name Sandler is derived from ‘Shoe Maker’. However, it feels like the use of traditional Jewish music is slightly disingenuous when used in this way. Sandler’s character is self-involved, morally questionable and makes no real use of his bizarre powers. Traditionally the body-swap genre is a story of people learning more about themselves, or the people whose shoes they have been forced into. Unfortunately, The Cobbler manages to tread the line between heist and superhero film without really committing to either.
Add to this a combination of base racial stereotyping, some cringeworthy references to transsexuality and one particularly outdated playground insult relating to disability. The whole film is awkward and embarrassing.
Worse still, atop all these elements, the failing crux of the film is having a central cast who are so unlikeable that it’s hard to warm to them enough to care what happens next. After the 90th minute, I was just praying for the credits to roll as soon as possible.
Review by Adalean Coade
THE COBBLER is available to Download early now and on DVD / On-Demand from 4th January 2016