It’s that time of the year again. You know, the time when we get the next film from Adam Sandler’s lucrative contract with Netflix. The two first came together in a four-movie deal in 2014. They extended their partnership in 2017 adding two more films into the mix. So far every movie Sandler has made for Netflix has received (and rightfully earned) the dreaded ‘Rotten‘ tag from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Yet they remain popular with subscribers which is why Netflix once again extended their deal earlier this year – four more movies, $275 million.
“Hubie Halloween” is Sandler’s sixth film for the streaming giant and it brings with it many of the things you’ve come to expect: cheap gags, lowbrow humor, and a cast full of Sandler’s buddies who soak up most of the film’s budget. Within the overloaded cast of characters and cameos you’ll find Ben Stiller, Julie Bowen, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Michael Chiklis, Kenan Thompson, Dan Patrick, Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider, and Shaquille O’Neal among others. Many of the usual suspects, a few new ones.
What’s frustrating is that “Hubie Halloween” is built on an entertaining premise – a Halloween comedy that’s part spoof and part lighthearted romp. And having a gentle, kind-hearted simpleton as the chief protagonist in a town full of bullies could be something sweet, timely, and funny for the whole family. At times it seems like that’s what “Hubie Halloween” wants to be. But then it (unfortunately) remembers it’s an Adam Sandler movie and in comes the vomit jokes, the fart jokes, the urine jokes, the innuendos and entendres. And the longer it goes the less you see of its once promising charm.
Sandler plays Hubie DuBois, a Halloween loving local from Salem, Massachusetts, “America’s Unofficial Halloween Capitol“. For some reason Sandler (who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy) decides to speak with a weird and annoying voice, his jaw locked and muttering in a way that can at times be hard to understand. Is he trying to give Hubie a speech impediment? Is he somehow trying to equate Hubie’s speech with his IQ? Regardless, Sandler’s Hubie sounds more like a grown man impersonating a 6-year-old than a character speaking naturally. But I digress…
It turns out that benevolence is a rarity in Salem, a town with a bully problem since the 1600’s. It’s a place full of mean-spirited punks including a pestering pack of juveniles who hurl more than insults at Hubie. There are Hubie’s co-workers who scare him every chance they get for their own wicked enjoyment. Two of his old classmates (Meadows and Rudolph) insult him relentlessly. And the town’s bully-in-chief (Ray Liotta) hounds Hubie for no discernible reason whatsoever.
The lone exceptions are Hubie’s mother (June Squibb), a well-meaning old maid with a penchant for crude t-shirts, and Violet (Bowen), an attractive single mother who has been in love with Hubie since they were in first grade (don’t ask, just chalk it up to living in a place where kind men are in short supply). Oh, and there is Mr. Lambert (Buscemi) who just moved in next door. He seems nice other than boarding up all of his windows and telling Hubie “If you ever hear some commotion coming from my house, it’s nothing to be concerned about. So you don’t need to come over and check on me. In fact, it’s important that you don’t.” Sounds normal.
Evening approaches and as the self-anointed ‘Halloween Monitor’ of Salem, Hubie grabs his trusty Swiss Army Thermos (yes, that’s a thing) and begins patrolling the neighborhoods making sure people are following safety protocols and observing proper candy etiquette. From there the story unfolds into a series of forgettable encounters between Hubie and the townsfolk. There are a few decent jokes sprinkled in, but most of the scenes are little more than Sandler goofing around with his pals. Meanwhile a half-baked horror mystery plays out in the background as an uninteresting masked “terror” starts abducting citizens. Whatever.
There’s more that you could break down and analyze but there’s really no point. You’ve seen and heard most of this stuff before. The big positive (if you want to call it that) is that “Hubie Halloween” is easily among the more tolerable films out of Sandler’s Netflix efforts. It’ll find its audience as most of his film’s usually do. But the few moments of amusement and a fun premise isn’t enough for the rest of us. “Hubie Halloween” is now streaming on Netflix.
VERDICT – 2 STARS