While we all can point to a recent film in Adam Sandler’s glut of shabby comedy outings as a guilty pleasure, be it one of his recent Netflix releases or before, at least one of them hit a cord with you. Or maybe it didn’t. It’s hard not to accept however, that Sandler hasn’t made a genuinely funny and memorable comedy in well over a decade. Hubie Halloween doesn’t for a moment change that but it might just be his best attempt at family comedy for a while. Warm and kind hearted, Hubie’s Halloween antics are much more amusing than the terrible, forced voice Sandler deems necessary to play him.
Set in Salem which understandably makes a big deal out of Halloween festivities, well meaning and perpetually bullied Hubie (Sandler) puts it upon himself every year to ensure that everyone has a safe and care free holiday. However when people start disappearing before his eyes and rumours of a missing patient from a mental institution begin to swirl through the town during arguably its most important holiday, Hubie takes matters into his own hands, trying to prove that he is anything but the town joke.
While many have and will comment on Sandler’s obscure Oscar promise, where he vowed to make his worst film if he didn’t win the Best Actor Oscar for his admittedly excellent performance in the Safdie Brother’s Uncut Gems, Hubie Halloween isn’t trying to live up to his joke. Director Steven Brill, working off a script by Sandler and co writer Tim Herlihy actively wants to tackle the subject of bullying and the kind of rumour mill that small towns produces. Driving its point home with light comedy and a decision to paint most of the real villains here being grown men and women gives Hubie’s tale a nice generational twist, with the films young performers like Noah Schnapp and Paris Berelc serving as the allies during Hubie’s evening.
Peppered with actors from Sandler’s past filmogrophy, as is to be expected, from Kevin James as Salem’s disgruntled police chief to a scene stealing Steven Buscemi as Hubie’s new neighbour who may or may not be something more sinister. Brill’s film is a callback to family comedies of yesteryear, the kind that don’t have to make sense as long as they make you feel good. Serving as a statement that comedies such as this can work as long as they are done right. Unfortunately it’s about half and half here thanks to some disappointing dialogue.
While Sandler’s usual schtick doesn’t quite work here, with the aforementioned voice serving as a painful reminder of prior duds in Sandlers past, the physical comedy and visuals paint a picture of a better sense of humour behind the lens as Brill uses every scene to add a lightness to Hubie’s idea of Salem. Either with the running gag of Hubie’s multi-talented Thermos, his trusty sidekick which turns out to house every useful houshold contraption known to man or just the surreal sight of a game but not on top form Sandler crawling up to a funeral, in case he makes a scene. These outlandish and undeniably dumb sights are shot as good natured, bright actions in a film that doesn’t have a mean bone in its body.
Ultimately this is a nice snapshot of old school 90s suburbia but brought to a younger generation with the community values layered through Sandler’s comedies feeling equally meaningful and earnest here. Serving as a nice reminder that through all his prior Netflix duds, Sandler has always meant well with everything he has produced. Hubie Halloween won’t win him any new fans, awards or even recognition but hidden in this easy distraction of a film is a good comedy with some good intentions that are hard to fault. It might just be the perfect antidote to the conventional Halloween frightfest most of us don’t quite need right now.