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The Cobbler (2015)
By all accounts, there's a genuine tenderness that resonates throughout the first half of this movie. It seems clear The Cobbler was initially meant as an urban fairy tale for pre-tween aged children, with Sandler's Max being a likable nobody begrudging his boring lot in life until a touch of magic gives him shape shifting powers. Seeing Max impersonate his absent father (Dustin Hoffman) to grant his mother's last dinner date wish is truly heartwarming. It's also fun watching Max goof around with this new found gift, deeking out of paying for an expensive lunch and taking a Porsche sports car for a joy ride without repercussions, just by switching guises. Harmless fun that young kids could easily tap into.
The Cobbler also offers up an often refreshing, low-key dramatic performance from Sandler that, for long-time fans, sits somewhere between his amazing role in Reign Over Me (2007) and his so-so appearance in Spanglish (2004). You immediately see that every fibre in Max's body is disgruntled with him having been deferred to living under the shadow of his estranged father. When he does speak, his underlying tone is tempered annoyance. Despite my over-all disappointment with this movie, I thoroughly appreciated Sandler nailing his starring role here. Top marks also go to Steve Buscemi as personable barber next door and Max's close friend, Jimmy. Kids movie or not, realizing a believable sense of whimsy in a normal contemporary setting is tough to get right. They and Dustin Hoffman absolutely get it right.
Unfortunately, the fun soon ends when co-writers Thomas McCarthy and Paul Sado's oddly cobbled script attempts shifting from playing childish pranks to offering a more graphically-tinged story parents would probably consider more appropriate for a teenaged audience that - quite frankly - likely wouldn't care about checking out a mildly humorous magic shoe trick flick starring Adam Sandler. Just sayin'. Sandler's regularly over-the-top annual family comedies fill seats, but this isn't one of them. Glimpses of poor storytelling actually materialize in the opening scene, where Max's great-grandfather is presented with a grave neighbourhood problem and a pair of another man's shoes. You're left guessing what happens next. Why? Amateurish writing.
Max's story takes on a kind of superhero origins aura, with him eventually shape shifting to spy on and mete revenge against nasty petty criminal Leon (Method Man), and then help Lower East Side community activist Carmen (Melonie Diaz) champion an elderly tenant threatened by evil New York developer Elaine Greenawalt (Ellen Barkin). This is when the screenplay completely sabotages itself, with scenes of brutal, bloody violence and intense cruelty that don't work within a big screen effort that otherwise plays out like purely escapist entertainment meant for young children. Sure, loads of action movies that little kids end up seeing feature the same violence or worse, but an expectation of that comes with the price of admission. Here, those scenes are gratuitous mis-steps that lock out the wrong audience. Over-the-top funny would have fixed that.
The Cobbler could have been an absolutely satisfying live action dramatic comedy of harmlessly humorous cinematic whimsy for little kids. Without a doubt. Sadly, the shoe doesn't fit. Badly structured storytelling and a taste for gratuitously intense content disconnects this picture from its G-rating audience that was obviously, stupidly forgotten about in the editing room. That's a shame. Reviewed 03/15, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
The Cobbler is rated PG by the
Ontario Film Review Board, citing scenes containing some grotesque
images in a fantasy, comedic or historic context, use of expletives,
limited use of slurs, non-sexual nudity with no close-ups, scenes
that may cause a child brief anxiety, or fear, and restrained
portrayals of non-graphic violence, and is rated 13+ by la Régie
du Cinéma in Québec.
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