During an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show” in late 2019, Adam Sandler jokingly declared that if he did not receive an Oscar nomination for his dramatic turn in the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems,” a recognition he was more than deserving of, he would have his revenge on the film industry by subjecting us all to what he described as the ultimate “so bad on purpose” movie experience.
Sandler’s track record, as evidenced by his pitiful lineup of Netflix films like “The Ridiculous 6,” “Sandy Wexler” and “The Do Over,” would suggest that his latest film from the streaming service, “Hubie Halloween,” is now the embodiment of his plan for payback.
Fortunately, the honor of his all-time Worst Movie still resides firmly in the hands of “Jack and Jill,” and while “Hubie Halloween” is more often than not an immature film with lazy comedy, it is immature and lazy on a small-enough scale to be an ultimately harmless story that devotees of Sandler and his production studio, Happy Madison, should enjoy.
The film follows Hubie Dubois, a resident of Salem, Massachusetts who is obsessed with anything and everything to do with the spooky season. His devotion to Halloween, his compulsive tattle-tailing and self-declared status as a trick-or-treat safety monitor makes him the primary target of ridicule from everyone in town who’s not his mother or love interest Violet Valentine, played by Julie Bowen, who also played Sandler’s love interest in “Happy Gilmore.”
Despite his big heart, Hubie is nevertheless an even more oblivious version of Bobby Boucher, his character from “The Waterboy,” complete with a mumbling speech impediment that is never fully explained and becomes less funny the more you hear it.
Of course, this being an Adam Sandler film, Hubie is inevitably thrust into the hero position when a series of strange disappearances occur on Halloween night, giving him an actual problem to attend to.
Featuring a host of Sandler’s usual suspects — Kevin James, Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider among others — along with a who’s who of former and current “Saturday Night Live” cast members, and even a few surprise appearances from the likes of Ray Liotta and others, “Hubie Halloween” often feels like a piece of Happy Madison fan service. With this distinction, however, comes the clearest issue that befalls most films from the studio: an overbearing reliance on repetitive, childish humor that has no means of being contained.
Not only does the film buckle under its own weight and become increasingly less humorous the longer it goes on, but it does a disservice to the moments that are actually funny.
The genuinely humorous moments are few and far between, and the unfunny moments last far too long to give any bout of laughter even the faintest impact. The film has a decent enough premise to create plenty of original, rewarding humor which makes it all the more frustrating when the same jokes are milked for everything they’re worth.
Adam Sandler has proven on more than one occasion that he can be a formidable funnyman with great comedic timing. It’s disheartening and a bit mind-numbing that he continues to make films that, for some reason, don’t seem to reward that particular aspect of his talent.
Then again, it’s not as if Sandler’s style of comedy has been known for its subtlety. At the end of the day, outlandishness is what he seems to favor, and more importantly, it’s what his fans seem to favor.
Even if the rambunctious antics of “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore,” and the romantic charm of “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates,” are things of the past, it’s undeniable that Sandler had a great time making “Hubie Halloween.”
And at the very least, one can actually sense effort in his delivery. The past few years have found him completely phoning it in playing dull, lifeless protagonists, but it seems the resurgence granted to him by “Uncut Gems” has brought a little spirit back into the characters he’s bound to play in the future.
So, while “Hubie Halloween” has its numerous flaws and definitely won’t appeal to anyone not already on Sandler’s side, it’s an innocuous and benign experience that tries very hard to capture the fun side of Halloween, and one that won’t lose him any points from those who love him.
Are we really gonna be remembering it fondly this time next year? Of course not. But it’s not the massive trainwreck that Sandler hinted at. Hopefully he can earn that coveted Oscar nomination before letting that film see the light of day.