TIFF Review: 'The Cobbler'

The Cobbler
(USA, 99 min.)
Dir. Thomas McCarthy, Writ. Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado
Starring: Adam Sandler, Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith, Ellen Barkin, Melonie Diaz
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Oy, The Cobbler is terrible! The film proves TIFF to be the Launchpad of several awards races including, well, the Golden Raspberries.

Anyone assuming that this new film from writer/director Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent, and Win Win) will feature a new renaissance for Adam Sandler is dead wrong. The Cobbler is no Punch Drunk Love. It’s no Spanglish. It’s not even on par with Happy Gilmour. Adam Sandler has not made an indie comedy. Thomas McCarthy has made an Adam Sandler movie.

The Cobbler marks the most dubious selection at the Toronto International Film Festival this year because it’s a schmaltzy and stupid misfire on every level. This nonsensical film stars Sandler as a down on his luck cobbler who discovers the ability to inhabit the lives of his customers with the help of a magical heirloom in the cobbleshop basement. It's A Serious Man meets Happy Gilmore as Sandler's Max shoulders his family legacy (introduced in a novel opening scene, which, as is the case with the Coen Brothers film, is the only highlight of the movie) and acts like a little boy.

Max walks a mile in other people’s shoes, and The Cobbler’s first instinct is to let him take advantage of the situation by pulling pranks on others and causing misery. The fantastical escapes are borderline rapey as Max creeps and preys on women because, hey, a guy like Sandler can’t get laid. He punks black dudes, roams Chinatown with an accent, and plays a tranny just for fun. It’s all a case of laughing at, rather than with, the people whose lives Max enjoys so that he can realize that being a working class shoe repairman isn’t all that bad.

There’s also a half-assed story about condominiums and gentrification featuring a ruthless slumlord played by Ellen Barkin. You know a film stinks even when Barkin can’t liven it up. The Cobbler also throws in a bizarre origins story to make the fable even more incomprehensible.

That McCarthy delivers such an amateurish flop is shocking. This film is racist, sexist, homophobic, and it isn’t funny. The Cobbler is pathetically slight and its attempt to add depth with the condo war simply feels tacked on. The Cobbler officially makes the condo feel like a clichĂ© as Max joins a turf war.

One expects something this bad from Sandler, but for once the blame can’t fall on him. Sandler is, of course, expectedly terrible as he goofs around like a teenager, gets angry, and gets Mr. Deeds-level awkward with the current trend in his career that tries to mix his frat boy humour with family-friendly sentimentality. Expect his reign as the Meryl Streep of the Razzies to continue. Hey, if the shoe fits…

Rating: (out of ★★★★★)

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