REVIEW: The Cobbler (12A) **

PA Photo/Entertainment One/Macall Polay.
PA Photo/Entertainment One/Macall Polay.
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In her 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee eloquently promoted tolerance and understanding through her lead character, crusading Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch.

‘One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them,’ wrote Harper.

Oscar-nominated writer-director Thomas McCarthy takes those finely-crafted words to heart in this fantastical drama about a New York cobbler, who discovers he can magically take on the appearance of his customers by stepping into their footwear.

The initial set-up of The Cobbler demands a huge suspension of disbelief but that’s nothing compared to the gargantuan leaps of logic that McCarthy attempts to perform to meld comedy, drama and romance on the mean streets of modern-day New York.

The film stumbles and falls flat on its face a long time before one of the two-dimensional supporting characters advises Sandler’s shoe man: ‘Don’t do anything you’ll regret.’

That presumably includes watching McCarthy’s poorly executed exercise in whimsy.

Any good intentions are hobbled by uneven performances and a script that lacks clear direction and purpose.

Max Simkin (Sandler) harks from four generations of cobblers and owns a shop in a rundown neighbourhood of the Lower East Side that is ripe for redevelopment and gentrification.

His father Abraham (Dustin Hoffman) vanished without trace many years ago, leaving Max to single-handedly care for his ageing mother (Lynn Cohen).

Every day, Max heads to work, trading pleasantries with Jimmy (Steve Buscemi), who runs the barber shop next door.

A local thug called Leon Ludlow (Method Man) drops off a pair of shoes for repair, but Max’s stitching machine breaks down.

So he heads into the basement to use his father’s old equipment and unexpectedly, when he tries on the hoodlum’s footwear, Max becomes Leon.

The cobbler excitedly slips into boots, brogues and sandals and takes on the appearance of other clientele including playboy neighbour Emiliano (Dan Stevens), who is dating a sex bomb (Kim Cloutier).

Armed with shape-shifting powers, Max attempts to woo local activist Carmen Herrara (Melonie Diaz) and unwittingly stumbles into an underhand scheme run by landlord Elaine Greenawalt (Ellen Barkin).

The Cobbler comes apart at the seams at alarming speed.

Writer-director McCarthy fails miserably to replicate the heartfelt emotion and humour of his earlier films and compounds one poor choice with another.

Any good intentions are hobbled by uneven performances and a script that lacks clear direction and purpose.

Only a fool would want to be in Sandler’s shoes right now.