Adam Sandler is having a very, very bad TIFF. When news first broke that Sandler was teaming up with directors Jason Reitman and Tom McCarthy for his next two films, there was reason to believe the Sandler of “Punch-Drunk Love” (or at least the Sandler of “Funny People”) was back. Perhaps Reitman could coax something out of Sandler akin to Patton Oswalt’s great performance in “Young Adult.” Surely Tom McCarthy, who gave great roles to Peter Dinklage (effectively making Dinklage’s career) and longtime supporting player Richard Jenkins in “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” could do the same for the comedy superstar turned punchline.
Alas, no. “Men, Women & Children” was met with widespread derision, and “The Cobbler” hasn’t been received any better (though it just got picked up for $3.5 million anyway). The kindest reviews have said it’s disappointingly too similar to the kind of movies Sandler usually makes. As for the less kind: multiple critics have dubbed it the worst film of the festival, calling its tale of a cobbler who can transform into anyone whose shoes he wears (really) a racist, transphobic, and utterly misguided attempt at magical realism. Scott Tobias of The Dissolve won’t have a review up until tomorrow, but he gave the film a score of 0 on Twitter and said “It makes me want to upgrade everything I’ve ever seen half a star.” Hey, look at the bright side, Adam Sandler, maybe Tobias will upgrade his score for “Men, Women & Children” from 0.5 to a hearty 1-star now.
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
Though often lazy and sometimes intolerable when surrounded by yes men, Sandler has given deeply moving performances for Judd Apatow and Mike Binder; with Paul Thomas Anderson in “Punch-Drunk Love,” he made one of this young century’s essential romances. So one might be forgiven for having too-high hopes of “The Cobbler,” which teams the actor with Station Agent director Thomas McCarthy. As it turns out, the likeable but ordinary film is much closer to the usual Sandler vehicle than to “The Visitor.” It is better than and just as commercial as 2006’s “Click,” another film offering Sandler magical powers with life lessons attached; that may bode well for box office, but being able to compare a new film by Thomas McCarthy to one by “Waterboy” helmer Frank Coraci is a sad occasion. Read more.
Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
While McCarthy is likely trying to achieve some kind of magical realist screwball vibe, “The Cobbler” never generates the high-spirited inventiveness or energy to allow audiences to buy into the premise, in order to go along for the ride…The motivation for Max’s leap from tradesman/proprietor to socio-economic vigilante is poorly motivated, other than now obtaining a vague sense of purpose in his life. But it’s the film’s final ten minutes that push “The Cobbler” into something transcendently, almost spectacularly bad. A couple of plot twists and reveals try desperately to turn this fairy tale into something akin to legend, with enough transmitted that a door is actually left open for further sequels. Yes, “The Cobbler” becomes a sort of indie movie fantasy origin story. Seriously. It’s a card played that nothing in the rest of the movie even suggests, and is so utterly misguided it’s nearly jaw-droppingly remarkable. Read more.
There seems to be a third act issue for McCarthy as a similar thing occurs in The Visitor when it’s nuanced look at immigration suddenly blindsides you with political rhetoric I simply wasn’t prepared to be spoon-fed. Max Simkin’s story was always going to end rosy, but I never expected it to come across as cheap too. Read more.
Mike Ryan, ScreenCrush
Now, this scenario could have led to a story that was sweet and simple and forgettable. That would have been performable option. Max uses his newfound powers to turn himself into an African American man and run out on a check at a restaurant. He then uses the powers to turn himself into an even bigger African American man so that he can mug another man for his shoes. Max also likes to turn himself into a transgendered woman and there are a lot of jokes about that, too. This is all terrible for obvious reasons. There’s even a scene in which Max turns into his own father and spends a romantic night with his mother. This is meant to be sweet but comes off as disturbing. Read more.
‘The Cobbler,’ starring Adam Sandler as a cobbler who can step into other people’s shoes, is easily the worst film I’ve seen in Toronto.
— Owen Gleiberman (@OwenGleiberman) September 7, 2014
THE COBBLER: Man, another superhero origin story? #TIFF14
— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) September 7, 2014
no longer under embargo for THE COBBLER. It’s a baffling, casually racist and transphobic, unfunny misfire. Worst I’ve seen at #TIFF14
— Jake Cole (@notjustmovies) September 8, 2014
THE COBBLER (McCarthy, 0/5) Merely lifeless piece of magical realism until each new plot twist deepens the calamity. Yikes. #TIFF14
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) September 10, 2014
Will say about THE COBBLER what I’ve been saying about IT’S PAT: It makes me want to upgrade everything I’ve ever seen half a star.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) September 10, 2014
THE COBBLER: The Adam Sandler Renaissance (version 3.0) has been cancelled. Sorry. #TIFF14
— Barry Hertz (@HertzBarry) September 10, 2014