Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) has had enough of working in his little New York shoe repair shop where he quietly envies people with more interesting lives. So when he discovers an old family heirloom with the magical ability to change his appearance and transform into any of his customers, the temptation is too good to pass up. However, his newfound ability to become someone else proves to be as troublesome as it is fun. When a ruthless real estate developer tries to take over his neighborhood, Max uses his gift to become the hero he always hoped he could be.
"Have a pickle."
When I went to film school years and years ago, the importance of having a strong ending to your story was beaten into students in virtually every class. The reason for that is you could have a mediocre or even a bad movie with a good solid ending that makes the audience feel like what they just saw was worth the time. However, if you have an amazing movie, something that is pure Oscar bait, the entire venture could be ruined with a terrible ending. The ending is the final note you leave your audience. While 'The Cobbler' certainly isn't an Oscar bait movie by any means, but it is a nice comedy that is 100% completely ruined by the ending.
Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) is a fourth generation New York City cobbler who lives out his mundane life showing up to work, fixing people's shoes, maybe getting a cup of coffee, and then going home to his elderly mother. Every now and again Jimmy (Steve Buscemi), the barber from next door, drops off some pears for Max's mom and leaves jar of locally made pickles for Max to snack on. As much as Max hates his stagnate life, he pushes through it in the hope that his father who ran off decades ago will one day come home. Until that time comes, Max fixes people's shoes. Nice people, friendly people, even people with a possible criminal past like Leon (Cliff "Method Man" Smith), Max will take care of their needs. It just so happens that Leon has an expensive pair of alligator shoes that need some work, immediately.
When Max's electric leather stitcher breaks down, he must dig out his father's old foot-pedal powered stitcher. A family heirloom that dates back over a hundred years, the old stitcher saves Max's bacon in the nick of time as Leon is supposed to show up any minute. Only leon never shows. Max stays after hours for ages waiting for the man. In a moment of absolute boredom, Max decides to try on the alligator shoes for himself. As the shoes were in his size, he expected a nice comfortable fit. What he didn't expect was to be turned into Leon!
Panicked, Max rips off the shoes and is instantly transformed back into his old self. Realizing the power of the machine, Max starts digging out all of the size ten and a half shoes that were left at his shop, fixing the souls with the antique leather stitcher. One by one he tries on the shoes transforming himself into old men, men of different races, the occasional woman, and even a man that clearly had been dead and rotting for quite awhile.
With this new great power allowing Max to literally walk in the shoes of other people and experience their lives, he pulls the occasional prank, gets to know some pretty women, and gets involved with a local activist named Carmen (Melonie Diaz). Carmon is trying to save the neighborhood from gentrification as a rich real estate developer (Ellen Barkin) is buying out residents and even forcing people out of their homes and businesses using the local criminal element like leon. Max decides its time to stop screwing around and do something with his life that actually helps people - only he's got to wear other people's shoes to do it.
After that summary, I bet you're wondering how 'The Cobbler' could be all that bad? The truth of the matter is that the movie is actually quite good. It enjoys a subtle humor that is funny and heartwarming and not at all like the vast majority of Adam Sandler movies that get released to theaters every year. In all honesty I was rather enjoying myself through a lot of it. Adam Sandler delivers a restrained performance the likes of which I haven't seen him do since 'Punch Drunk Love.' It's always fun to see Steve Buscemi and having him be the nice guy next door looking out for Max's welfare was actually kind of sweet. Method Man was a lot of fun playing dual versions of himself and steals the show much of the time; I was honestly enjoying this movie.
Then, there is the ending I mentioned above. I'm not going to spoil anything for you kids - I don't do that, but suffice to say, it is a complete left turn towards absolute stupidity the likes of which I hadn't seen since the John McTiernan movie 'Basic.' Part of me was ready and expecting a certain character to reveal themselves, or rather take their their shoes off, but I didn't expect it to go so far past the point of being poignant and heartfelt to being so utterly ridiculous it insults the rest of the movie I just saw. Seriously, if you're at all inclined to see this movie, stop watching at the one hour and twenty-nine minute mark and pretend it doesn't get stupid. I was originally ready to give this movie a four out of five, that's how much damage the last four minutes does to the rest of the movie.
Director Thomas McCarthy can churn out great material like 'The Visitor.' He's great behind the camera, his skills as a screenwriter have been proven - I just do not understand where or how this ending was considered a good idea. I wish this disc had a commentary track just to hear the explanation for the ending. Going into this, I was curious as to why this movie really didn't get much of a theatrical release and was instead dumped onto Blu-ray. Now I know. Without a serious reshoot, I'm willing to bet any distributor was hesitant to release this one to movie screens and put the time, money, and effort into promoting it. If you're going to watch, prepare yourself for a wonderful little movie that is utterly spoiled by a ridiculous finish. I so desperately wanted to recommend this one - but I just cant.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Cobbler' premiers on Blu-ray thanks to Image Entertainment pressed on a BD25 disc. Housed in a dual disc case, the blu-ray comes with a DVD that features identical content. After trailers for 'The Rewrite,' 'Paradise,' and 'Goats' the disc arrives to the main menu.
'The Cobbler' must be doing the "new shoes dance" with this beautiful 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Detail is absolutely fantastic and really goes the distance when showcasing the outstanding production design that went into this film. Look at all the clutter in Max's cobbler shop, or the clothing, or the small details of the buildings - everything looks fantastic. Colors are also equally impressive - even in their slightly muted state. The film is apparently supposed to take place in the fall and the colors do a solid job of accenting that feeling - but that doesn't keep them from popping off the screen. Max's red scarf is particularly integral to the story and it along with blues and greens look fantastic. Black levels are equally impressive offering a lot of shadow separation creating a great sense of depth with only some slight crush during a night scene when Max wears the shoes of a dead guy.
For a soft, quiet-natured comedy 'The Cobbler' gets a lot of milage out of it's DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. Perhaps the best element of the mix is John Debney and Nick Urata's fun and bouncy score as it absolutely comes to life with this mix. Imaging is also very strong as the sounds of New York, the mechanics of Max's cobbling equipment, and dialogue have plenty of space to occupy while moving around the channels without losing any clarity or leading to any kind of distorting effects. Levels are equally impressive and mixed well keeping to the midranges with only subtle spikes. A great mix for this little movie.
The Making of the Cobbler: (HD 15:03) A nice behind the scenes EPK style feature that shows that cast at least tried to make a very good movie.
Trailer: (HD 2:21) Wisely, the trailer makes no allusion to the end of the film.
With a really awful ending 'The Cobbler' quickly goes from being a wonderful, nice, and funny movie that is very enjoyable to being completely enraging. I'm probably being a little too hard on the movie, but my disappointment with where this movie decided to go is difficult to contain. I know people are probably going to see this one, and I'll probably catch some flack for being too harsh, but at the same time I can't let it slide. This is a movie I was an inch a way for labeling highly recommended! Even with the beautiful picture and the strong audio mix, I can only suggest people rent it.