Adam Sandler used to play hotheads and morons. Now 48, he's spent the last decade choosing to play a nice guy. Ironically, his "lovable" schlubs are more unnerving. In Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler, he plays a fourth-generation Manhattan shoe-smith who still lives with his mom (Lynn Cohen). Sandler's the straight man: a victim of a universe that rewards the rich, handsome, or cruel, the spokesman for self-pitying creeps who claim chicks only like assholes.
Max Simkin is the ultimate Sandler creation: miserable, unappreciated, dateless, and too developmentally arrested to do a damned thing about it. His father (Dustin Hoffman) ditched the family, leaving Max to run the cobbler shop the Simkins have owned for over a century. One day at the store, Max breaks out a vintage stitching machine. It's magic, and to Max's shock, when he kicks off his New Balances and slides into local gangster Ludlow's (Method Man) expensive wingtips, he becomes the crook. Yes, he's literally walking in another man's shoes. But for all the movie's talk about souls and soles, Max isn't gaining insight into another person's struggles. He's simply stealing their body to have some fun, even considering joining the wife of a man he's embodying in the shower for a shag.
The scene rankles because the movie continues to deny that Max is a creep. The Cobbler maintains the delusion even when our hero starts committing crimes in the skin of black men. Once might be an inadvertent script misstep. Three times, without comment on the pattern, is toxic. The fourth time, Max finally swaps in a white person ... a transvestite.