I only have 300 words or less to explain The Cobbler, but I doubt I could adequately convey anything about it in less than 30,000 words. How else would one describe one of the most original and bafflingly crazy misfires you’ve ever seen? Like Ishtar, it’s a film that will someday have volumes written about it.
Adam Sandler stars as a frustrated middle aged Jewish man running a shoe repair business that he inherited when his dad (Dustin Hoffman) skipped town. He’s fairly antisocial, not too concerned about a rich developer (Ellen Barkin) gentrifying New York’s Lower East Side, he’s easily bullied, and he has an ailing mother at home to worry about. Then, one day, he finds out that a hand stitching machine in the basement of his shop can turn any pair of shoes into objects he can put on to take on the appearance of the owner.
Sandler’s great, as is the rest of the cast, but once you can figure out where the film is headed, you’ll immediately begin wondering what filmmaker Tom McCarthy (who previously made such great films as The Station Agent and The Visitor) was thinking. There’s a precise moment when the film goes off the rails. Then it goes so far away from those rails you can see the rails from space. It stops being a Jewish mystical fairy tale and becomes an oddly brutish superhero movie in the vein of Kick Ass or Darkman.
It does not work, but it’s ambitious as all hell and uniquely crazy. I don’t like it, but I sure as heck admire anything that turned out this insane.
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF 2014 coverage.