An Adam Sandler Halloween movie that isn’t Hotel Transylvania? Bleh, bleh, bleh.
Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler) is a good soul with a speech impediment, living in a fictional Salem, Massachusetts littered with the cartoonish bullies (Ray Liotta, Tim Meadows, and Michael Chiklis) he grew up with who still delight in his torture as adults. Often nicknamed “Pubie,” he’s a soup-swigging self-proclaimed monitor of Halloween safety, armed with a Swiss Army Thermos-of-many-things and ready to report even the most mundane suspicions to Sgt. Steve Downey (Kevin James). With a strange new neighbor (Steve Buscemi), a coddling mother (June Squibb), and an inexplicable dream girl waiting to be asked out (Julie Bowen), this Halloween is going to be different… whether Hubie likes it or not.
It goes without saying that Sandler is an acquired taste. The “Saturday Night Live” alumni often fares better when in someone else’s production rather than his own feature; the 2019 Uncut Gems provided Sandler the chance to prove he even has the chops for drama if not the penchant. Likewise, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania franchise improves with every installment — featuring Sandler voicing Dracula and his regular co-stars voicing other characters — while his collaborations with Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films such as 50 First Dates are often delightful in spite of a “Sandler skew.” There’s a formula here, ranging from his impressive remake of Mr. Deeds to a lackluster Little Nicky, but which Adam is going to show up this time for Netflix’s new Halloween bashing?
Everyone involved with Hubie Halloween looks like they had a blast making it… as viewers can only imagine such fun while enduring the resulting film. It’s a checklist of things anyone might throw into an generic made-for-cable Spooktober special that plays out like Meet the Spartans — only without the funnier-than-the-movie outtakes over the credits. With a decent running gag of ridiculous random objects thrown at our wannabe hero as he bikes from one scene to another, Hubie suffers from all the earmarks of an under-baked series of SNL skits that each run too long with no hope of catching anyone cracking up trying to stay in character.
At least partly filmed on location in Salem, it fails to convey that in the same way as Disney’s Hocus Pocus managed to, but why bother at all if not showcasing it more? There are few amusing moments, separated too often by bits of bullies being bullies, made even weirder it somehow ties into whatever was supposed to be a plot. Hubie is clueless; somebody scares him; wild-take; repeat. How can this many fun actors spend most of a film standing around like window dressing more often than participating? It’s like re-watching Down Periscope and realizing that’s Patton Oswalt as a background sailor — never seen doing a single funny thing in the final cut — and someone deliberately making a movie full of those non-moments.
Solely for diehard Sandler fans (with Easter eggs for those keeping score), it’s odd that this was the best they could come up with. The cast are all funnier than this, but maybe sacrificing an R-rating also killed the moments that could have been had. Too adult for kids and too childish for adults, it might be a better idea to just re-watch Hocus Pocus on Disney Plus again until “The Mandalorian” Season 2 starts.
Hubie Halloween is rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive content, language, brief teen partying, and not much else, really.
One skull recommendation out of four