Written by Michael Vacchiano
Whether you hate him or love him, and to his credit, Adam Sandler is a man who knows where his bread is buttered. The comedy superstar has spent a near 30-year career specializing in the type of humor that features juvenile man-children, gross-out gags, and even some family-oriented sweetness. Still fresh coming off of plenty of critical praise and awards buzz for his bravura turn in last year’s indie drama/thriller Uncut Gems, Sandler goes back to the well with a new Netflix offering from his Happy Madison production company. The fall season holiday comedy Hubie Halloween offers nothing new to his catalogue, but Sandler and his co-stars/friends provide us with some harmless chuckles and fun at a time when we could all probably use it.
Hubert “Hubie” Dubois (Sandler) is a good-natured yet jittery man who is unfortunately the laughingstock of Salem, Massachusetts. Living alone with his doting mother (June Squibb), Hubie constantly finds himself ridiculed and the target of pranks and practical jokes from the townspeople, adults and children alike. The only person in Salem who sees any worth in him is Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen), for whom Hubie has pined for from afar ever since high school. With the annual Halloween festivities in full swing, the holiday-loving Hubie (who self-appoints himself every year as the town’s unofficial safety monitor, to no one’s care) investigates some strange occurrences happening locally to try and save the town.
As previously mentioned, Hubie Halloween doesn’t offers anything new for Sandler fans. he overprotective mother, the alliteratively named love interest, and most blatantly Hubie’s Bobby Bouche-esque mumbling accent are clearly lifted from Sandler’s 1998 comedy, The Waterboy. The Halloween backdrop is a bit unique, as is the “spooky” mystery that our unlikely hero attempts to solve, but the elements all get convoluted by film’s end. The holiday tropes of ghosts, werewolves, zombies and even escaped mental patients are incorporated with the similar family flair of the recent Goosebumps movie series. Not saying that the screenwriters do a lazy job trying to string it all together, but everything leading up to the result and mystery “reveal” doesn’t really flow.
But let’s be honest here: the storyline is never at the forefront of a Sandler flick, and Hubie Halloween is no different. Luckily, this is a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and that’s to its benefit. Bodily function jokes along with typical slapstick are the name of the game, and I’d be lying if I didn’t smile at least a few times while watching. As for Hubie himself, he may not end up being as Billy Madison or Wedding Singer’s Robbie Hart — but he’s still an endearing yet inept hero that you can root for. His trusty thermos, which is part Swiss army knife/part utility belt, is a perfectly dorky accessory.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Hubie Halloween is the star-studded cast of friends and frequent costars that Sandler has assembled. They all appear to have a great time and throw themselves into the wacky proceedings with great gusto. Kevin James is particularly hysterical as the grizzly, mulleted police chief and Hubie’s rival for Violet’s affections. Fellow SNL players Kenan Thompson, Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows and Rob Schneider are here, as well as NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. Indispensable Sandler veteran Steve Buscemi shows up as Hubie’s creepy new neighbor, and even veteran tough guys Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis join in on the fun. It’s also a thrill for Sandler fans to see Modern Family alum Bowen re-team with her Happy Gilmore costar once again. And speaking of the revered 1996 Sandler comedy, there’s a special cameo in the opening minute of this movie that fans will definitely pop for.
Hubie Halloween may not be groundbreaking in any regard, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Happy Madison boss may stay a little too close in his comfort zone, and even blatantly recycles things from his past resume credits right in our faces. With that comes the sweet-natured and family-oriented lessons that get peppered into Sandler’s films, including Hubie Halloween’s message of being true to oneself and standing up to bullies. Fairly simple and straightforward like the man himself, but in contentious times like these yours truly can appreciate that. Not to mention us being in a pandemic world right now in which trick-or-treating may not take place for some of us this year, Hubie Halloween is some welcome holiday fun.