Adam Sandler might own his own subgenre of silly comedy, but he demonstrated long ago, in movies like Punch-Drunk Love, that his range extends beyond funny voices and sophomoric pranks. Sandler returns to more sophisticated storytelling in The Cobbler, playing a lonely New York shoe repairman who starts to sense that he’s let life pass him by — going nowhere while fixing the shoes of more-assertive customers taking vacations and living adventures. Things change, though, when he discovers a family heirloom that magically lets him “walk in another man’s shoes” and see the world differently.
“For a guy who’s known as a funny guy, Adam has a very soulful quality to him,” says co-writer and director Tom McCarthy (Win Win). “One of the things that makes Adam right for [the role] is that he does handle the various levels of comedy very well. And he transitions really well from comedy to drama. He can make even the smallest, simplest moments funny.”
McCarthy’s movie, which just wrapped production in New York, is more whimsical than his previous movies, like The Station Agent, with obvious elements of a fairy tale. But it’s rooted in his own experiences. “I lived above a shoe-repair shop in New York City that I used to walk by every day, and I always just kind of was fascinated with it, looking in and seeing an endless maze of shoes sitting around,” he says. “I was kind of thinking about the expression of, ‘You don’t know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes’ one day and what the origin of that was and what that would mean to translate that into a story.”
In addition to co-starring Dustin Hoffman, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Fruitvale Station‘s Melonie Diaz, Ellen Barkin, and Dan Stevens, the film reunites Sandler with frequent collaborator Steve Buscemi, who plays the barber whose shop is next door to Sandler’s cobbler. “They’re characters who’ve spent years and years working side by side, and their real-life friendship really plays well on screen,” says McCarthy. “They really seem like two guys who care about each other.”