Hubie Halloween marks the 61st Adam Sandler film I’ve seen. I have seen more films featuring Sandler than films with any other performer and few come remotely close. Though so many of his movies have been widely panned and, in talking with many people, “Sandler film” seems synonymous with garbage, they have been something I look forward to every year, and sometimes more often than that, for most of my life. They may rarely be the traditional “good” movies but there is rarely anything as entertaining and fulfilling as a Sandler flick, even among the yearly prestige pics, and I haven’t even always appreciated his infrequent collaborations with more respected directors (I primarily speak of Paul Thomas Anderson here) as I have his low-brow comedies. Such is my respect for the cinematic giant that is Adam Sandler that, as I write this, my finger is adorned with a ring he once wore on screen.
After last year’s success in Uncut Gems and Sandler’s subsequent promise to make a movie “so bad on purpose” if he didn’t win the Oscar for his performance (he didn’t), my anticipation for Hubie Halloween was off the charts. I am pleased to say, the anticipation was not in vain and Hubie Halloween is absolutely an Adam Sandler film in every sense of the term. It sees Sandler teaming up with director Steven Brill, a longtime collaborator behind Mr. Deeds and Little Nicky, among others, for a story about Hubie Dubois, a man at the butt of every joke in his hometown of Salem, who made it his purpose to make sure everyone has a safe Halloween. Of course, this Halloween things get a bit out of hand as Hubie’s tormentors are up to their usual tricks but begin to disappear and the town’s witch trial history becomes analogous for the situation Hubie finds himself in.
With supposed werewolves and burnings at the stake, it leans lightly into horror territory and has a couple halfway decent jump scares, but at its core, none of the plot or the horror aspects matter, it’s a Sandler comedy and that’s why you watch it. And when it comes to being a Sandler comedy, it excels. The usual stable of actors who appear in most of his films are all there, as are a couple celebrities who seem to have wanted an easy paycheck, and this time it brings back Julie Bowen for the first time since Happy Gilmore to play Sandler’s love interest. No one is ever putting on a masterclass in acting in one of these films but they always seem like they’re having a great time, and I don’t know why they would come back for dozens of these if they weren’t, and there’s a certain wide-eyed sincerity almost every performer brings to their role. Leading the pack in this is Adam Sandler who, using one of his strange and sometimes borderline unintelligible voices, walks the thin line between annoying and endearing as a pitiful fool who is so lovable you have to root for him.
The humor itself is similarly standard for Sandler with gross out vomit gags, elderly women wearing shirts with humorous phrases like “boner donor”, and weird stunts on bicycles abound. Sometimes I groaned at the sheer stupidity of it but, even at those times, it was light fun that I appreciate, and at others I was cackling for minutes on end, a smile stretching so wide I thought it would permanently imprint itself on my face, especially when Hubie became frightened as easily, frequently, and hilariously as my father.
No one comes to this sort of film for some deep social commentary (though it did coincidentally have a government official refusing to shut down economic activities in the face of clear danger) and its message essentially boils down to the same as so many Sandler films- be nice and be yourself- which may not be enough for some, but I think it’s perfectly fine to turn off your brain and watch something nice. I had a great past few days and settling down on the couch, getting through the mid-week slump and kicking off the fall season with a pumpkin flavored beer and a Halloween themed Sandler film was just what I needed to keep up the warm and fuzzy feeling lingering from the weekend. There may be better films this year but there have been none I’ve enjoyed watching more. The world could use a little more nice in it.