HUBIE HALLOWEEN Review
It’s a testament to the strange entertaining moments found in HUBIE HALLOWEEN, the new Netflix/Adam Sandler offspring made for the spooky season, that the film’s main character Hubie (played by a mustachioed Sandler), a scaredy cat man-child with a voice caught somewhere between Scooby-Doo and someone’s cracked out impression of Scooby-Doo, does not drag the film into 100% awfulness. Make no mistake, HUBIE HALLOWEEN isn’t a good film, but for another slapdash entry in Sandler’s oeuvre of shrieking man children, you could do a lot worse (see: JACK AND JILL). Or a lot better (see: THAT’S MY BOY).
Set in the aesthetically pleasing autumn yellows and oranges of Salem, Massachusetts, the film follows Mr. Hubie as he takes it upon himself to save the town from potentially supernatural forces. Of course, like other Sandler characters, Hubie is a joke to pretty much all the residents of Salem, outside of his supportive mother (June Squibb), some local kids, and Hubie’s high school crush Violet (Julie Bowen) who for whatever reason wants to rock Hubie all night long. Even so, something is attacking the local residents of Salem and it’s up to Hubie and his hilariously useful thermos to save the day.
While that’s pretty much the basic gist of the story, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that nothing actually happens in this movie. Sure people get snatched up into the darkness and a couple of red herrings on who or what is behind it all get strewn about throughout the film but by the end I never felt like there was much importance to what was going on. Even when the film does finally reveal who/what has been behind all the spooky hijinks and delivers some after school messaging on the terribleness of bullying, HUBIE HALLOWEEN basically brushes it off to rush ahead to an all smiles epilogue. But I’m missing the forest for the trees here, people are not coming to see an “Adam Sandler with a funny voice” movie for the story, they’re here to see- well, actually I really don’t know what we want to see in that type of movie. Comedy, I guess? And if that’s the case, HUBIE HALLOWEEN kind of delivers in its own unique way. Of course, there’s Adam Sandler idiotically voguing for the camera and shrieking and howling and talking like a terrible cartoon character come to life which has its strange charms here and there, and there’s also a couple of fart jokes sprinkled about, can’t forget those and uhh, there’s also people being assholes which isn’t that funny in a usual sense but if it’s done by celebrities I guess it makes it funnier (shout out to Ray Liotta donning a clown wig). So yes, there are bits of humor to be found here but much of it fails to deliver any gut busts.
And the performances aren’t bad, just kind of plain cut. Sandler, despite inventing one of the most grating voices of cinematic history, fails to bring much actual energy to his main performance as he just kind of goes through the motions and hits his predetermined marks of making strange noises and shrieking. Outside of him, his friends fail to make any impression as well despite a pretty impressive roster of actors on hand ranging from Kevin James as an alpha dunce who happens to be the town’s police chief to Steve Buscemi as man who might be a werewolf in probably the more game performance of the crowd. Whatever the performer and whatever the role, it all feels to the point and for a movie about a scaredy cat fighting off the forces of spooky evil on Halloween night, a little more zaniness would be welcome.
Despite a multitude of flaws, in a strange way, like most of Happy Madison’s other films with Sandler and his friends dicking around on camera, HUBIE HALLOWEEN kept me watching. Maybe it was in the pleasant and warm aesthetics of a Sandler film set in the cozy colors of autumn in a small Northeastern town or maybe it was in the sense of fun that’s to be found in seeing exactly that image of good-natured Adam Sandler and his friends doing dumb stuff on camera. I really can’t say, but to its credit HUBIE HALLOWEEN does try a few new things that help it stick out amongst other Happy Madison entries. Director Steven Brill, a common directing partner with Mr. Sandler, stages some decent set pieces of miniscule spooks but overall he contributes to crafting a welcoming Amblin-like sense of atmosphere screened through a more crude lens. It doesn’t always work, mainly as Tim Herlihy and Sandler’s scraggly script fails to do much with an intriguing set up, but overall Brill crafts a seasonal low brow comedy that could find staying power with a young audience.
Overall, HUBIE HALLOWEEN isn’t the best work of Happy Madison but it also is far from the worst; if it were a candy, it’d probably be like a Milk Dud: intriguing in theory, but kind of forgettable once you’ve consumed it. Try as Sandler might, a truly terrible vocal creation fails to neuter the effortless charm and entertainment that he delivers everywhere else in the film.