Hubie Halloween (Netflix)

A friend of mine who reads my reviews said he couldn’t wait to read my review of Hubie Halloween.  Given that I am not a fan of Adam Sandler in any way, and have not watched any of his movies from beginning to end–or for more than a few minutes at a time, to be honest, reviewing his latest offering on Netflix would be an interesting challenge.  Even though I am not a film critic who gets paid for their work, and must see and critique films that they would gladly miss, I felt it was my duty to honor this request from my small, yet devoted audience.

To me, Adam Sandler’s films seem to fit into one of three categories.  The first includes those where he speaks normally, but acts like an angry sociopath.  This would include films like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and so on.  The second category is made up of films where Sandler’s character is relatively meek and mild, but speaks with a bizarre speech impediment.  The Waterboy, Little Nicky are in that category.  Then there are the movies where Sandler tries to actually act.  Those films are critically praised,  but only seen by critics.  Uncut Gems, Reign Over Me, Funny People and Punch-Drunk love inhabit that branch of the Sandler oeuvre.  I’ve been meaning to see the later films, but with so many choices, something had to give.  Please forgive me, critical masses!

Hubie Halloween is another one of those movies where Sandler adopts an incredibly bizarre speech impediment and spends the entire movie being tormented by others.  (I have to give  Sandler credit for possibly being the sole actor working today to employ a speech impediment for laughs, political correctness be damned.)  Hubie’s last name is actually Dubois, and he’s terrified by Halloween.  Simple pranks pulled on him by his coworkers at the grocery stores leave him screaming in abject fear.  (There is a very funny montage of those pranks.)  He’s even terrified of the decorations in his own home.  The early scene where he takes out a screaming ghoul mannequin still makes me chuckle.

Hubie lives in Salem, Massachusetts, a town known for its witch-burning past.  Most (but not all) of the town’s inhabitants can’t stand Hubie.  The source of their ire is that Hubie insists on telling everyone in town (schoolchildren, adolescents and adults) to be safe when having fun during Halloween.  Yes, Hubie is a killjoy.  His message is routinely mocked and ridiculed.  The townsfolk hate his behavior so much that he regularly has to dodge items thrown at him while riding around on his bike.  It’s a funny sight gag, even more so when the creatures in the forest nearby join in.

Another running gag is Hubie’s thermos. He wears it attached to his belt at all times, and is fond of soup.  But the thermos isn’t just an ordinary thermos.  While Hubie claims to have made it himself, I suspect it was actually made by Tony Stark.  It includes a flashlight, telescope, shovel, umbrella, and so on.  It’s clever in its own way, and proof that the folks behind the movie were not just phoning it in.  (There are listicles on the web if you need to know more.)

Hubie’s mother is played by Oscar nominee June Squibb, and she, like the rest of the supporting cast, is more than game for some low-brow humor.  She is just tickled pink that she can find perfectly good tee-shirts to wear at the local thrift store for fifty cents.  The collection of shirts she wears throughout the movie can only be described as those you would find at low-rent souvenir shops alongside beaches.  Seeing June Squibb acting perfectly normal while wearing a shirt exclaiming, “If you can read this, you’re in fart range”, is both completely incongruous and totally hilarious.

Hubie’s love interest is Violent Valentine (Julie Bowen).  She’s been harboring a secret crush on Hubie since grade school.  She finds Hubie’s overall dorkiness attractive, and practically throws herself at Hubie.  Again, the movie is not in any way reflective of reality, and it’s one of the few plot elements that really doesn’t work.

What does work is the performances of the seemingly endless supporting cast.  Kevin James, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider, Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Michael Chicklis, Kenan Thompson, Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Stiller all have hilarious moments in the movie.  I thought Rudolph and Meadows were the funniest of the bunch as a passive-aggressive married couple with open disdain for each other.  Shack’s cameo was by far the most bizarre, and that’s saying something, given that Buscemi is an escapee from a local mental hospital who thinks he’s a werewolf.  Buscemi is hilarious.  It’s a proven scientific fact that there can never be too much Buscemi in a movie.

There’s also a subplot for any teenage viewers who may get roped into watching this with their parents, involving Violet’s daughter Megan (Paris Berelc) and freshman Tommy (Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things).  They make a cute couple, and actually like and care about their younger siblings.  Sandler, you old softie, you.

The plot of the movie involves the frequent and sudden disappearance of Hubie’s tormentors. They seem to be pulled away into the void by some supernatural force.  The movie includes  plenty of suspects, but the one behind it all is probably the most unexpected of them all.  (I’ll leave that as a surprise for anyone who has not seen this movie yet.)  Hubie manages to free all of his tormentors who were abducted, and they are forced to admit that they attacked Hubie to distract from their own deficiencies.  There’s a message there, about not letting your insecurities dictate how you treat (or mistreat) others.  How seriously folks will listen to that advice depends on how badly you as a viewer wanted Hubie to finally be taken down by a flying piece of debris.

I have to say that I laughed a lot during the movie and appreciated its message of tolerance.  For my first ever beginning-to-end Sandler movie experience, I enjoyed it.  If Sandler ever stops relying on ridiculous vocal mannerisms and sociopathic tendencies, he could have a respectable acting career.  Ah, who am I kidding, right?

Shout-out to CloudCraze OG @mikebcala

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