“Hubie Halloween” Movie Review


     We’ve seen this movie before.  Clearly channeling many of the same characteristics from a bevy of previous characters he has portrayed in the last 25 years, Adam Sandler again leaves the realm of the serious work he did in last year’s “Uncut Gems” and devolves his abilities as an actor in “Hubie Halloween”.  Yet another over reaching comedic underdog story, the film, directed by frequent Sandler collaborator Steven Brill (“Little Nicky”, “Mr. Deeds”), features a carbon copy character fans of the actor will certainly attribute to many of his past creations, most notably his Bobby Boucher in 1998’s “The Waterboy”.  I suppose Sandler may believe his audience is now primarily made up of youngsters who weren’t alive then, and thus wouldn’t remember enough to make the comparison.  Sadly, this guy hasn’t been relevant as a funny man for the last fifteen plus years.

     Armed with a red thermos featuring a multitude of Swiss army knife style gadgets that appear as the script needs them, Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, a forty something who lives with his mother in the Halloween obsessed town of Salem, Oregon.  Hubie typically spends his days around this time as the self anointed “monitor” of Halloween.  On one hand, he’s sort of a Clark Griswold of the holiday, having overly decorated his mother’s home with hundreds of lights and frightful characters to set themselves apart from everyone else on their street.  On the other, he functions primarily as the town punching bag, getting around on a bicycle while dodging everything but the kitchen sink thrown his way by middle school kids who apparently see it as ok to bully him on a constant basis.  Oh, and he talks just like, well, Bobby Boucher, ensuring his persona could easily be mistaken for someone slow and taken advantage of.

     Not coincidentally, Sandler has teamed up with fellow scribe Time Herlihy, who contributed the screenplay to nearly all of the former SNL star’s early efforts, and returns now so many years later with nothing original to offer, just more of the same.  Perhaps this is Sandler’s way of rebooting his old material for a new audience?  If that’s the case, I would advise streaming “Billy Madison”, “Happy Gilmore”, and “The Wedding Singer” if you want to really see Sandler at the height of his powers while emanating real swagger amongst an authentic 90s vibe.  In “Hubie Halloween”, we get something that feels recycled, though there are several highlights.

     At this point, it’s clear Sandler’s production arm, Happy Madison, has no problem rounding up an entertaining combination of SNL alums and character actors willing to play against type who populate each and every scene with at least the promise of having the audience wonder what will happen next.  That’s a good thing.  What isn’t is the point where you realize nearly all of these guys are riffing on past performances while spewing the lines for this one.  And while Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Ray Liotta, and Kevin James are given bland, replaceable characters of whom they have no choice but to mail it in, the wonderful June Squibb is a hoot as Hubie’s mom/  Steve Buscemi as a creepy new neighbor finds fresh ways to be his unusual self, and even Shaquille O’Neal manages a few laughs as a radio DJ who is not what people picture as they listen (A joke that was done better in “Wayne’s World 2”).

     But the bottom line is Sandler has played this role several times before, even with similar circumstances.  He is regularly pranked by his friends, co-workers, and the aforementioned gangs of town bullies.  All while longing for that one woman in town, Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen, reuniting with Sandler after also playing his squeeze in “Happy Gilmore”), who he has wanted to ask out since high school, but hasn’t built up the nerve to do so as his social awkwardness instantly takes over and his personality seemingly reverts to that of a child.  It’s the constant need to impress her that fuels the story, but also the disappearance of key characters on Halloween night with word getting out about both an escaped mental patient returning home, as well as the sighting of a werewolf prowling amongst the town’s overdone festivities.

     All of this comes together just as you might think.  Each scene plays like an SNL sketch, and often times contributes nothing to the story.  And the same can be said for Sandler’s voice.  It’s distracting enough that you begin to wonder if “Hubie Halloween” may have been slightly better without it.  Although I doubt quality was the goal here in the first place.  In truth, you have to wonder if Sandler is merely attempting to see how long he can continue to get paid for churning out the same cookie cutter comedies over and over again.  And since we’re still watching, maybe he’s the smart one.  GRADE: C-