Dir: Steve Brill. Starring: Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Julie Bowen, Maya Rudolph, Kevin James, Ray Liotta, June Squibb. 102 mins.
Last December, Adam Sandler promised to deliberately make one of the worst movies ever if he didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for the remarkable Uncut Gems. That buzzed-about Oscar nod didn’t happen. Now, 10 months later, he’s delivered Hubie Halloween, a Netflix comedy in which he puts on a silly voice, co-stars with Paul Blart: Mall Cop and befriends a werewolf. It seems like a promise kept.
Despite appearances, though, Hubie Halloween is in fact not the worst thing Adam Sandler has ever done. More unexpectedly, it’s generally bearable – a light, sweet and nostalgic comedy that is pleasantly devoid of high stakes.
Hubie Halloween sees Sandler in slow-witted man-child mode again, trademark speech impediment and all. He is Hubie Dubois, think the second cousin twice-removed of Little Nicky, who is known as the jumpiest yet nicest guy in all of Salem, Massachusetts. It’s also a reputation that has left him an eternal target of bullies, from his former high school classmates (played by Ray Liotta and Maya Rudolph, each drawing the lion’s share of the film’s laughs) to the parade of snot-nosed children who regularly torment him on the way to work.
Halloween is Hubie’s favourite time of year, and he spends every 31 October patrolling the town and making sure everyone stays safe. This year, there’s also an escaped convict on the loose, a sinister new neighbour (Steve Buscemi), and a spate of freak disappearances to contend with. What unfolds is a deliriously choppy adventure, subplots stopping and starting or going nowhere in particular, and a finale that is an odd blend of teen slasher movie tropes and a Sesame Street monologue about everyone having their own insecurities.
But there’s also a sustained ease here that makes it far more enjoyable than other Sandler movies with similarly low ambitions. There are cute cameos, occasional giggles, and lovely shots of autumnal American suburbia as Hubie cycles through Salem bursting with somewhat misplaced town pride. It’s Springfield by way of a Scooby-Doo episode.
Considering it’ll probably be the closest we get this year to a genuine Halloween experience, Hubie Halloween is also oddly comforting. Who would have guessed a side effect of coronavirus would be that a straight-to-Netflix Adam Sandler comedy isn’t just bearable, but something of a lifeline?