A lot of folks saw the trailer for Adam Sandler’s most recent Netflix offering, “Hubie Halloween,” heard the voice he was employing and assumed he was promptly getting revenge for the Academy Award nomination he didn’t receive for last year’s “Uncut Gems,” both of which were certainly warranted. I’m happy to report the accent plays better in the movie and the flick itself is not only one of the best of Sandler’s Netflix slate – it’s the best straight-up comedy he’s made in recent memory.
Sandler stars as Hubie Dubois, the laughingstock of Salem, Mass. Hubie’s one helluva a nice guy, but he’s in his 50s, still lives with his mother (June Squibb), rides a bicycle to his job working a deli counter where he’s bullied by a high schooler (Karan Brar), is a virgin and is too shy to ask out Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen – cool to see her and Sandler back together so many years after “Happy Gilmore”), the girl he’s had a crush on since the second grade. To add insult to injury, Hubie’s also tormented by Mr. Landolfa (Ray Liotta), the Hennessey’s (Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows – sporting the most intentionally hilarious bad hairpiece I’ve ever seen) and an 11-year-old by the name of O’Doyle (Tyler Crumley) … why’s that name so familiar? Hell, even the town’s priest Father Dave (Michael Chiklis) picks on him.
Hubie, as the descendant of someone who stood up for witches in Salem … and paid the ultimate price for doing so … feels it’s his place to protect the town on Halloween. He’s happy to team with local police (embodied by a mulleted Kevin James and Kenan Thompson), but they want nothing to do with him. Armed with his Swiss Army knife of a thermos, Hubie takes to the streets. Salem faces more threats than normal as a patient has escaped from a nearby mental health facility and Hubie’s new neighbor, Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi), shares a name with a man whose name appeared on a headstone with a birth year dating back to the 1600s … Lambert may or may not also be a werewolf.
“Hubie Halloween” is directed by Steven Brill, who made two Sandler flicks I’m not a fan of (“Little Nicky,” “Mr. Deeds”), but also helmed Sandler’s recent, awesome standup special “100% Fresh” and made his directorial debut with the surprisingly subversive Disney kid pic “Heavyweights.” “Hubie Halloween” is a marked improvement over Brill and Sandler’s previous filmic collaborations, but I suspect this has more to do with Tim Herlihy co-scripting with Sandler. Herlihy was Sandler’s college roommate, a staff writer at “Saturday Night Live” and co-wrote each of the star’s best comedies alongside him – among them are “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Big Daddy.” The two reteamed for “Grown Ups 2” back in 2013 and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t a vast improvement over its predecessor and felt somewhat reminiscent of Sandler’s mid-to-late ‘90s heyday.
You already know whether “Hubie Halloween” is for you or not. This is a 102 minute movie wherein Sandler’s essentially playing an adult version of Canteen Boy and opens the picture by projectile vomiting soup from the side of his bike. My biggest takeaways are as follows. It’s worlds better than I thought it’d be given the trailer. Sandler’s nepotism pays dividends for once (Sadie and Sunny Sandler – Adam’s daughters, play two of Bowen’s character’s three kids (the other is Noah Schnapp from “Stranger Things”) – fare better than their mother, Jackie (who I ripped on hardcore in my “The Wrong Missy” review and who has admittedly improved here albeit in a diminished role). The movie has a message that’s very much worth telling and hearing right now – that no matter how mean or ugly someone is to you if you can respond with kindness you’ve already won. Mostly, I left the movie desperately wanting Squibb’s character’s wardrobe.