What attracted such a top-of-the-range supporting cast (Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Barkin, Dan Stevens and, um, Method Man) to this by-the-numbers indie fantasy? Was it the plot, about a magical cobbling machine that allows the shoesmith to transform – outwardly at least – into the owner of the shoe he’s fixing? Was it the clunky, tedious script? Or was it the presence of the headline star, that surefire guarantee of quality, Adam Sandler?
Whatever their reasons, they make this grindingly dull experience almost bearable. Sandler plays Max Simkins, a depressed footwear repairman whose neighbourhood is being swallowed up by corporate interests. When he unearths his father’s old stitching machine in the basement – given to the family by an angel, according to legend – he sees a way to solve his financial problems, get back at The Man (well, Ellen Barkin) and possibly get laid in the process (don’t worry, this doesn’t end up happening: he just perves on a woman in the shower while ‘disguised’ as her boyfriend. Phew).
With its unusual central conceit and awkward, somnambulant pacing, ‘The Cobbler’ feels like a quirky foreign comedy that’s been mis-translated into English, losing all the subtlety and humour in the process (the gratingly perky Klezmer-ish score doesn’t help). But no, it’s an original idea – just not a very good one.