“Halloween’s upon us.”
For his entire life, Hubie DuBois (Adam Sandler) has been the laughing stock of his beloved Salem, Massachusetts. He’s a bit dim-witted, affable, too kind and too courteous for the mostly mean-spirited townspeople. Those familiar with Sandler’s previous comedies shouldn’t be surprised by how he plays the role. Hubie is a pillory punching bag, accustomed to the receiving end of countless jabs, and come spooky season he’s assaulted with haymakers. He’s annoying but always means well, as does the film, perfecting the art of dodging punches because it’s not in his heart to dish out retribution. Hubie Halloween mirrors the lead character’s pointless pursuit, resulting in a movie that’s knowingly stupid, harmless, and packs a positive message into a story that seems to have been written on the fly or off the cuff. A little more thought might’ve amounted to something surprisingly good instead a movie that’s so unsurprisingly average at best.
Hubie Halloween is pretty much exactly what you expect, and if I’m being honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is a fatty fast food order rounded out by all of the typical side characters played by the usual suspects. It’s a nugget dipped in a litany of sauces, a sloppy burger dressed to the nines. There’s really nothing surprising about its overall structure either; most of this mystery is so foreshadowed that it’s practically part of the weather forecast. But the movie means well, and compared to most of Sandler’s Netflix productions, this one at least has the foresight to promote kindness. That doesn’t make it good. It just makes it bearable.
While I honestly didn’t laugh until roughly an hour in, during a sequence that felt as weird and creative as some of SNL’s most memorable modern skits, Hubie Halloween is at least always a bit humorous. That humor varies between dry, wet, sometimes too soggy for its own good. And like most of Sandler’s films, the cast is littered with talent, and yet none of them are given genuine character arcs. Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen), the “High School Hat Trick,” fosters kids and still waits tables in the local diner, and she’s also pining after Hubie. She’s never more than that though. His mom (June Squibb) takes a bizarre and unrewarding turn in the end, and the young romance between freshman Tommy (Noah Schnapp) and the older Megan (Paris Berelc) is as phony as a bouquet of plastic roses. It’s all like one of those clown squirting flower gags. More trick than treat.
Sandler acts as his normal Schleprock caricature and surrounds himself with friends to fill out the rest of the empty space. He modifies his voice, downturns his smile, and happily plays the sad clown so that he can imbue the unintelligent and oblivious man with the honesty and earnestness he’s been dubbed to have as Violet relentlessly declares him the nicest man in town. And at the end of the day, any logical person will accept that Hubie Halloween’s plot makes no sense. That the early shot of Sandler violently vomiting is grossly unnecessary, and that it tries too hard to appeal to the perversity of adults. Hubie Halloween features both a bad script and a good message, and a little more effort in blending the Nickelodeon vibes with the more mature material might’ve launched this one into the upper echelon of Sandler’s comedies. As is, it’s more Little Nicky than it is The Waterboy, meaning that it’s more sour than sweet. High quality H20 it is not.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5