‘Hubie Halloween’ review: Not Adam Sandler’s ‘worst movie ever’ after all

‘Hubie Halloween’ review: Not Adam Sandler’s ‘worst movie ever’ after all

10/07/2020

During the 2020 Oscars race, Adam Sandler pledged to Howard Stern that if he didn’t win an Academy Award for his work in “Uncut Gems,” he’d make the worst movie ever in revenge.

“If I don’t get it, I’m going to f–king come back and do one again that is so bad on purpose just to make you all pay,” the evil actor, 54, said. “That’s how I get them.”

Threatened and afraid, I went into his new comedy “Hubie Halloween,” released on Netflix eight months after his Oscar snub, prepared for some cinematic waterboarding. Sandler’s last comedy for the streaming service, “Murder Mystery,” with Jennifer Aniston, was abysmal — and that was not on purpose.

You can heave a sigh of relief, though, because “Hubie Halloween” is not Sandler’s prophesied film apocalypse. In fact, it’s one of the guy’s better straight-up comedies in quite a few years. Less “Jack and Jill,” more “Happy Gilmore.”

Hubie Dubois (Sandler), whose name — and speech impediment — bring to mind Bobby Boucher from “The Waterboy,” is the nicest guy in Salem, Mass. But the town treats him like an accused witch, calling him cruel names (Pubie) and hurling absurd objects at him (cinderblocks, crutches) when he’s on his bike. For protection, Hubie always carries a thermos that, a la Felix the Cat’s bag of tricks, contains a grappling hook, flare gun, screwdriver, umbrella and hot soup.

The poor man, who is both obsessed with and terrified by Halloween, is also the local snitch, acting as an amateur cop and alerting the authorities to every tiny infraction, which they find unbearable. Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy’s story takes that big, wronged, sympathetic character and throws him into a Halloween night of peril: a Michael Myers-esque convict escapes, a mysterious new neighbor (Steve Buscemi) moves onto Elm Street, and there is a string of local disappearances.

“Hubie” is, to some extent, a satire of horror films, which we’ve seen a lot of over the years. Jeez, with the “Scary Movie” franchise, we even got a satire of a satire (“Scream”). Such commentary is only a peripheral aspect of this movie, though. For one, it’s not so cold. Sandler, like him or not, is a master at bringing ‘90s heart and sentiment to his dumb schtick, and he’s disarmingly quiet and warm here. And his best jokes have nothing to do with Halloween.

The wonderful June Squibb plays his mom, whom he still lives with, and in every scene, she unknowingly wears an inappropriate secondhand T-shirt. “Boner Killer” says one. “If you can read this, you’re in fart range,” says another. OK, the yuks aren’t Oscar Wilde, or even Oscar Madison, but with great actors like Squibb, they just work.

And director Steven Brill’s ensemble is top-notch. Sandler, Squibb and Buscemi are joined by Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Ben Stiller, Keenan Thompson, Rob Schneider, Ray Liotta and Kevin James. Julie Bowen plays Violet Valentine (really), the one woman in Salem who’s kind to Hubie. The funniest, though, is a brief cameo from Shaquille O’Neal, whose character and his wife have a hilarious secret.

Sandler has had a rough go with critics, often for good reason. Scanning his Rotten Tomatoes page is like peaking at the gradebook for a remedial math class: 12 percent, 27 percent, 9 percent. But “Hubie Halloween” proves that the problem isn’t that he’s starring in stupid movies; it’s that he’s not starring in enough of the right stupid movies.

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