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Film / The Cobbler

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The Cobbler is a 2014 comedy-drama film written and directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Adam Sandler, Melonie Diaz, Method Man, Steve Buscemi, Ellen Barkin, Dan Stevens, and Dustin Hoffman.

Max Simpkin (Sandler) is a lonely, schlubby cobbler in his 40s who lives with his mother while continuing to run the shoe repair business founded by his family decades ago. One day, after his electronic stitching machine breaks down, Max unearths a manual stitching device once owned by his now-absent father (Hoffman), and after repairing the shoes discovers something remarkable: when he wears shoes repaired with the device, he transforms into the shoe's owners.

Energized by his discovery, Max finds himself in a series of adventures as he tries out the lives of his customers, stages a make-believe reunion between his mother and father, and fights back against a gentrification campaign in his neighborhood led by corrupt businesswoman Elaine Greenawalt (Barkin). Eventually, he discovers he is a part of a world much bigger than he ever imagined.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: When Max gets home from work and opens his fridge to pick a beverage, he has two options: a beer or a Yoohoo. The Yoohoo is a nod to Adam Sandler's film Big Daddy (1999) when he explains to the kids on the playground "Ya know what's good? Yoohoo with a bit of rum."
  • Age Cut: An interesting version. The opening A Minor Kidroduction ends with little Max watching his father working the stitching machine that produces a loud repetitive sound. Then the scene dissolves into adult Max sitting on a train while the sound the car produces on the tracks matches the sound of the stitching machine.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The manual shoe-stitcher, although Max can only use shoes that are his size, 10 1\2.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: When Max steps into the shoes of an Asian man, he is surprised to hear himself talk Engrish.
  • Asshole Victim: Jerkass Ludlow. When he is accidentally killed by Max, nobody really feels sorry for him.
  • Bed Trick: Max, disguised as the hot boyfriend of a girl he likes, is invited to join her in the shower and jumps at the opportunity... until he realizes he'd have to take off his shoes to do so.
  • Book Ends: The story starts and ends with the father's retelling of the Old Beggar Test incident.
  • Bound and Gagged: Ludlow wakes up bound and gagged in his flat after Max took him out with a taser gun.
  • Broken Aesop: Many have noticed that despite the obvious "learn things by walking in other people's shoes" message, Max doesn't treat any of the other bodies he uses as anything more than tools, and plays their personalities as broad stereotypes.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: As the rule states, a Disappeared Dad who is not dead, will eventually return later in the story.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jimmy asks Max at the beginning of the movie if he gave his mother the pears Jimmy had gotten her. Later when Max's father was having dinner with his mom, it's mentioned that he went missing after going out to get some pears.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The newsreporter who is introduced early on comes back at the end during the Engineered Public Confession.
  • Combat Stilettos: Courtesy of a local drag queen, and later accidentally weaponized by Max.
  • Concealing Canvas: Ludlow has a safe behind his bathroom mirror where he keeps his precious watches.
  • Cry into Chest: When Max finds his mother dead in her bed, he starts crying in her chest.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: It was to protect his family.
  • Disappeared Dad: Max's father Abraham.
  • Distant Prologue: The movie starts out with an A Serious Man-style Yiddish language prologue set decades before the events proper.
  • Dramatic Drop: Max drops a glass of water out of shock in the scene where his father reveals himself.
  • Engineered Public Confession: While Elaine Greenawalt believes she is in private with Mr. Solomon, she threatens to kill him and his daughter if he doesn't let go of his apartment. What she doesn't realize is that a newsman captured the conversation on tape from behind the door.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: First Max doesn't understand why only certain shoes are equipped with the power. Then he has an eureka moment and rushes into the basement to check on the stitching machine.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Max wakes up in the backseat of the henchmen's car at about the right time to overhear them talking about their plans.
  • Faint in Shock: When Max transforms in front of a boy in the street, the latter faints as he cannot cope with what he was witnessing.
  • Genre Shift: The movie goes from somber comedy-drama to magical realism comedy, to a bizarre superhero origin story of sorts.
  • Going to the Store: Max's dad disappeared for good after going out to fetch some pears.
  • Good-Times Montage: The dinner date of Max (pretending to be his father) and his mum is depicted in a montage of happy moments.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Max's father explains that he left his family and went undercover because he feared for their lives and this was the only way he could protect them.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: After Max kills Ludlow, he turns himself in and returns to the crime scene with two detectives. But now the body is gone and the blood-stained carpet looks clean. Max is flabbergasted and the detectives believe they have been taken for a ride by a lunatic. Little did they know, Max had a Mysterious Protector.
  • Job Title: Max is a cobbler.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Cobblers have secretly been using their shapeshifting powers to fight injustice for centuries, and Max is the latest addition to their ranks.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie opens with a scene showing Max as a little boy watching his father at work. The rest of the film deals with Max in his adult life.
  • Momma's Boy: Max, being in his forties, still lives with his mother.
  • Morphic Resonance: Max keeps his red scarf whenever he is a different character.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When Max questions his father about the stitching machine in the end, the latter doesn't answer but leads him into the basement to present him his Trophy Room of shoes.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Max fits the bill.
  • Old Beggar Test: This trope builds the backstory to how the magical shoe-stitcher device became the cobbler family's heirloom. Max's father recounts the story in the beginning of the movie:
    Abraham: A long time ago, on the coldest of winter nights, a vagrant came knocking at the door of our shop. Your great-great-grandfather gave him shelter when no one else would. He fed the man, mended his shoes... In the morning, the vagrant was gone but in his place was this sticker machine.
  • Pacifism Backfire: In one scene Max impersonates Ludlow and saves another criminal from being killed. His kindness is not being repaid as later said baddie turns out to be an Ungrateful Bastard who kidnaps Max (disguised as Ludlow) in order to off him and pities him for his poor choice.
  • Power-Up Food: Eating pickles makes it easier to handle the transition from one body to another. Really.
  • The Reveal: Max's barber friend turns out to have been his father all along, driven into hiding to escape retribution from those he angered as part of the cobbler corps.
  • Scary Black Man: Ludlow, the casually violent gangster played by Method Man.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Max's mother obviously suffers from senile dementia. In one scene Max finds her purse in the microwave.
  • Scenery Censor: There is a frontal shot of the girl in the shower where her breasts are covered by the shower curtains.
  • Secret Identity: The barber, who turns out to be Max' father.
  • Surprise Car Crash: The hero is kidnapped and put into the backseat of a car. While the co-driver talks to him, the car inexplicably collides with an obstacle. The scene fades to white and the hero awakes at his friend's place, implying his friend rammed the baddies with his own car to save the hero.
  • Testes Test: Max tries on a woman's heels to make sure the transformation is really happening. One hand down his pants later reveals that it is.
  • Transformation Trinket: Any size 10 1\2 shoes can become this if repaired by Max's device. Max's father is later revealed to have a veritable Batcave of shoes to use for fighting crime.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The audience is not let in on Max's plan to bring down Elaine Greenawalt. And of course, everything worked out nicely.
  • Vanity License Plate: In the closing scene, Max's father rides a limousine with the license plate "2Cobble".
  • Villainous Gentrification: The regular people of New York's Lower East Side are forced out of their houses by real estate developers so they can turn the area into luxury housing and retail spaces. Of course, the hero brings these plans to a stop.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: The Jews speak Yiddish in the opening sequence, set in Max's childhood.