A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Cobbler is a quirky dramedy with fantasy elements starring Adam Sandler as a fourth-generation cobbler on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Unlike many of Sandler's other movies, this isn't a lowbrow comedy with sports and bodily fluid jokes: It's a story about birthright, community, and what it takes to understand someone else's life. But there's also a lot of casual violence that's occasionally depicted humorously but is no less disturbing. People are stabbed, choked, kidnapped, tortured, and killed. A man almost impersonates a woman's lover to have sex with her, and the language is occasionally strong, with "s--t," "bitch," and "a--hole" peppered here and there.
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What's the story?
THE COBBLER chronicles the life of fourth-generation Lower East Side cobbler Max Simkin (Adam Sandler). The working-class tradesman doesn't make a whole lot repairing shoes, but it's his birthright. What Max doesn't realize is that the ancient stitching machine in his shop's basement is magical. When he fixes an intimidating new customer's (Method Man) dress shoes with it and slips the size-10.5s on, Max transforms into the shoes' owner. At first Max is beyond freaked out, but he eventually tests the century-old machine on a bunch of other customers' shoes, only to discover that putting on any mended shoe in his size can transform him into someone new. Max realizes that stepping into someone else's shoes gives him plenty of opportunities -- unfortunately, it's mostly to commit crimes, which are petty at first but become increasingly disturbing.
Is it any good?
The Cobbler opens with much promise in 1903, when the Lower East Side was historically populated by Jewish Eastern European immigrants and tradesmen. It then fast forwards to the present, connecting the dots between original cobbler Pinchas and his great-grandson, Max, a sad sack who doesn't appreciate his trade or his neighborhood the way his ancestor did. But the film's initial promise is squandered in a story that doesn't reveal anything about humanity except that people will do ugly things and take advantage of stereotypes if given the chance to disguise themselves as lots of different people.
While this isn't the worst Sandler star vehicle, and the comedian is certainly capable of serious acting, The Cobbler doesn't really showcase his range ... or work as a drama. Director Thomas McCarthy wastes most of his supporting talent, from Ellen Barkin, Dustin Hoffman, and Steve Buscemi to former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens and Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station). If you're looking for an entertaining or meaningful look at Jewish-American immigrants in New York, skip this and see The Pawnbroker, Hester Street, The Chosen, or Ragtime.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies that connect history to the present. How does Max's ancestry affect his life? What are some other movies about immigrants and their descendants? Could this movie have been made featuring a different trade and culture?
What do you think of how The Cobbler depicts race, ethnicity, and class? Does the movie dispel or reinforce stereotypes?
How is violence treated in the movie? Is it casual, believable, realistic, or stylized? Do you think all of it is necessary to the story?
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