Adam Sandler has to be one of the most infuriating actors in Hollywood. After all, there’s very clearly a talented individual lurking just underneath the surface, one that made a welcome showing in last year’s Uncut Gems, but he consistently falls back on lazy and uninspired comedies where he seems content to just put in the minimum amount of work required to collect his paycheck.
Such is the case with his latest Netflix exclusive, Hubie Halloween. Is it the worst movie he’s ever made? Far from it. In fact, it isn’t even close to being Sandler’s weakest effort, an honor that surely belongs to either Jack and Jill or The Ridiculous 6. That being said, it follows the Happy Madison Productions template to a tee, with the end result being a painfully generic, completely uninspired and utterly disposable piece of work.
Hubie Halloween will certainly appeal to longtime fans of Sandler’s efforts, though, gathering together many of his regular collaborators to deliver exactly the results that you’d expect. Steven Brill directs the leading man for the fifth time, Tim Herlihy takes his twelfth credit on a Happy Madison movie and the supporting cast includes Kevin James, Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider. So far, so Sandler.
Setting a stall out early to firmly aim for the easiest targets and appeal to the lowest common comedic denominator, it doesn’t take long for you to figure out where you stand on Hubie Halloween. Sandler plays a simple if well-meaning character with a funny accent who rides a bike, so obviously he’s sent flying over the handlebars twice in quick succession.
Somebody vomits, somebody else pees, two people get into an argument loaded with ‘yo momma’ jokes, and there’s also a conversation based on a complete misunderstanding of the word ‘boner’ and the obligatory fart gag. The fact that this all happens in the first fifteen minutes should give you a pretty good indication of whether or not you’ve got much interest in sticking around for the rest of the movie.
The plot is arbitrary, but follows Sandler’s Hubie DuBois as the self-appointed Halloween Monitor of Salem. He weaves his way throughout the town to interact with the various personalities that live there, and almost always finds himself the subject of a withering putdown. A series of mysterious events coupled with the disappearance of several residents, though, leads Hubie to believe that something sinister is going on, and he sets out to investigate the strange occurrences.
There are a handful of recurring gags throughout the film, the most memorable of which sees the always welcome June Squibb sporting a string of T-shirts with offensive slogans on them, which indicates how high the bar has been set. There’s also a great deal of prop comedy focused entirely on Hubie’s trusty Thermos, which he’s customized so that it also operates as a vacuum cleaner, high-powered flashlight, grappling hook, loudspeaker and blender, among other things, although the exact nature of the function depends on whatever half-hearted joke the script settles on next.
As a PG-13 horror comedy, Hubie Halloween can’t lean too far in either direction, so instead satisfies itself with the middle of the road. There’s a certain sweetness and mawkish charm to Sandler’s performance as someone who never puts himself first and always prioritizes the well-being of others. However, the message gets incredibly heavy-handed by the time the third act rolls around, eventually sinking into saccharine sentimentality as the predictable mystery at the center of the narrative is eventually unraveled.
Sandler pulls out every trick in his playbook from strange voices and facial tics to an awful lot of yelling at the top of his lungs, which reaches breaking point in a scene set in a haunted house that’s basically five minutes of Hubie moving from room to room screaming constantly. There are bright spots in the cast, in particular Maya Rudolph and Tim Meadows as a bickering married couple, but unsurprisingly, it’s Steve Buscemi who steals every scene that he’s in as the title hero’s kindly neighbor who may or may not be a werewolf, with his absurd turn the undoubted highlight. There are also some surprising cameos that we won’t spoil here, and some land much better than others.
Hubie Halloween was never designed to be high art, and while it will definitely appeal to Adam Sandler’s fans and spend a good few weeks dominating Netflix’s Top 10 most-watched list, there’s also an earnestness and unashamedly goofy quality to the whole thing that might even win over some of the actor’s longtime naysayers. If you’re looking for highbrow comedy, a smart script or any form of originality, then you’ve come to the wrong place, but as the latest lightweight and inoffensive entry in Sandler’s filmography, it isn’t quite the cinematic abomination that many were expecting.