The awards campaign for Uncut Gems made one thing crystal clear: yes, Adam Sandler is a powerhouse dramatic actor, but more than that, he’s just a really, really likeable guy. Every single Sandler profile and interview underlined the point, and any ill will for the mediocre-to-bad comedies he’s made were difficult to hang onto after he acknowledged his reputation in his Independent Spirit Award speech (“I’d like to also give a shout-out to my fellow nominees, who will now and forever be known as the guys who lost to fucking Adam Sandler”) and his pronouncement on the Howard Stern Show that, if he didn’t win an Oscar for Uncut Gems, he’d make a movie that was “so bad on purpose.”
That sense of love for Sandler carries into his latest film, Hubie Halloween, right up until, seconds after he appears on screen, he drinks three eggs and promptly projectile vomits.
Hubie Halloween, directed by Steven Brill (Little Nicky, Sandy Wexler), is not the bad movie that Sandler threatened — principal photography took place months before Uncut Gems was released — but it isn’t, say, Billy Madison, either. The seasonal exercise is exactly what you’d expect from the descriptor “Adam Sandler Netflix movie,” with a little extra heart to distinguish it from the other movies in Sandler’s uneven Netflix run.
Sandler stars as Hubie Dubois, a resident of Salem, Massachusetts who spends every Halloween as a defacto holiday hall monitor, making sure that no real tricks are pulled while people look for treats. Due to his hypervigilance, he’s also a boy who cried wolf; the local police see him as a nuisance, and the rest of the townspeople — with the exception of Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen), Hubie’s high school crush — mock him mercilessly. This Halloween, real danger is afoot, as a convict has escaped from a nearby prison, but nobody’s inclined to listen to Hubie’s warnings.
Hubie’s quest to figure out who’s abducting Salem residents has a few unexpected turns, due less to clever plotting than there not really being enough evidence to arrive at the final conclusion on one’s own. But Hubie Halloween isn’t a movie that most are going to pick because they’re looking for an engrossing mystery. It’s all about Adam Sandler doing his thing.
His “thing,” in this case, means the reprise of a mumbly voice, a sense of total cluelessness, and, around him, a lot of jokes involving excrement and pratfalls. Hubie spills coffee all over himself while on the toilet. He turns his soup thermos into a loudspeaker, a grappling hook, and more. He’s pelted with kids’ food after giving a less-than-rousing lunchtime speech. His laundry, hanging in his yard, includes a sheet with noticeable pee stains on it. The list goes on.
Hubie Halloween is full of that kind of puerile humor, made as entertaining as possible by a surprisingly stacked cast: Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, June Squibb, Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta, and Kevin James are among the other grown-up stars, with Stranger Things’ Noah Schnapp heading up the teen contingent. The best performance comes from Steve Buscemi as Hubie’s mysterious new neighbor, who may or may not be a werewolf. He howls and scurries around like a champ, earnest and game for anything, without a thought as to how silly the whole charade makes him look. That guilelessness is the film’s secret weapon; it’s difficult to begrudge the film’s high level of silliness when it all seems to be in such good fun. Sandler’s involvement also means several high-profile cameos from figures like Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Stiller. Their roles may be small, but they, like Buscemi, commit to the absurdity of the film.
Hubie Halloween doesn’t ultimately have too much to offer besides a brief, minimally spooky distraction, but it’s better than some of Sandler’s other Netflix flicks (The Do-Over, The Ridiculous 6). It has more in common with the best of his Netflix efforts so far, Sandy Wexler, in how earnest its energy is. The humor being volleyed around in Hubie Halloween isn’t malicious; Sandler, as Hubie, is almost always the butt of the joke, and the gags are mostly gross-outs rather than jabs at any specific people. Hubie Halloween may not be Uncut Gems, but it excels at being what it is: a comedy that’s easy to watch, and easy to forget about.
Hubie Halloween is streaming on Netflix now.