Cobbled together

The Cobbler has context for an interesting story. A small, friendly, old fashioned small business in New York. The quiet, somewhat awkward Jewish shoe repair man, the feisty barber friend next door. Over them is the intrusion of gentrification, a spiteful one-percenter who needs the property for development. Cliche, generic, sure. But sweet when considering the characters, almost setting up for a harmless bar joke.

And then it shifts. That shoe owner, Max Simkin (Adam Sandler), finds a magical stitching machine. The Cobbler becomes a literal metaphor for walking in someone’s shoes – his customer’s shoes, specifically. Now it’s a magical realism fantasy. Simkin puts on new faces and appearances because of those shoes, to learn, to react. Potential in the idea, from avenues such as race and the arrogance of the financially stable, slip off into stereotype, even perverseness. Simkin using the shoes to make ill-placed moves on a female model while in the form of her boyfriend is distressing.

But it’s not done morphing. The film changes as much as Simkin. Now it’s a crime caper. The ungainly Jewish shoe repairman turns into Leon (Method Man), an underground criminal who by coincidence is in the mix to punt the small businesses – and a small, frail old man – out of the area. The fracas which ensues reaches desperately, ribbing on gender transition before turning dreadfully dark. Murder, theft, street crime, etc. Simkin’s moral panic as to his own actions are adorable; their actual execution is not, nor do they excuse the events.

… this feature appears to blossom mere seconds from the arrival of a credits crawl

And still The Cobbler wants more. Closing moments and twists are head slapping in their throwaway potential, leveraging The Cobbler as a pleasant, albeit feeble, Jewish super hero yarn. There is where this feature appears to blossom, mere seconds from the arrival of a credits crawl. Clearly, it’s too late. The Cobbler needs a hero, and it turns out that hero was hiding in the mild Simkins all along – a nice closing metaphor shrouded in wasted execution.

Sandler is right for the part. His naturally frumpy form and accentuated social dorkiness speak to the needs of the role. It is also placing a burden on those who take on those shy qualities as their shoes are used, from Dan Stevens to Method Man.

The problems relate to The Cobbler’s insistence on exploiting rather than examining. A wide net of caricatures are not of value. Themes are not explored, rather inserted to push forward a meandering story. Substance is not something this film has. Those jarring shifts in tone and genre are explicit. Each leaves behind fragments of grand ideas which seemed to (finally) be anchoring The Cobbler. It’s as if the script, partly credited to director Thomas McCarthy, has an attention disorder. That’s a shame since The Cobbler seems to spinning creatively at every junction point. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Finding the machine @ 20:29

Deeply into an aura of orange as cast by digital color grading, the film is intensely warm. Flesh tones are steered into an unnatural realm, and Simkin’s shop seems dominated by a restrictive range of hues. It’s not an unpleasant look so much as one which appears to cover up the lighter tone The Cobbler is pursuing – sometimes, anyway.

A few primaries make it out, mostly greens and blues. Street level work drifts brighter than the rest, allowing room for those colors to breathe.

The film is hazy, definitely dream-like to reflect the fantasy. Black levels tend to waver. Depth is a bit limited too. The Cobbler has some heft in fine detail though. Close-ups are especially rich, and medium shots are crisply rendered. Image Entertainment’s encode manages this material.

Digital cinematography tends to buzz with noise sans any impact. Certainly, the compression is not bothered by the effects. A few exteriors, in particular one of New York, are dazzling. There are show-off moments to take notice of situated between the appropriately plain images which make up the majority. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Sonically lean, the DTS-HD track is underpowered, even in consideration of a comedy. While New York’s bustling qualities spruce up the rears on occasion, these are minor. Some ambiance in a bar feels miniscule and music barely touches the low-end despite an obviously thick bass line.

It is not an adventurous mix. Dialog is strict in staying centered. Stereos seem to be avoided other than to add some minimal depth to whatever the rears are producing. Sound work feels like a low budget afterthought. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]

A 15-minute making of is the lonely extra, mostly featuring the cast discussing their characters and specific plot points. This is not worth the 15 minutes. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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