New to Netflix, and arriving just in time for the spooky season, is Hubie Halloween – a Halloween-themed comedy from director Steven Brill. The movie stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Julie Bowen, and Ray Liotta, and is the latest in a series of direct-to-Netflix films produced by Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions.
Sandler has been churning pictures out for Netflix since 2015, starting with The Ridiculous 6. The films don’t tend to fair well with critics, but they appear popular with streamers, with The Ridiculous 6 being the most streamed Netflix movie at the time of its release.
Hubie Halloween, this latest film from Happy Madison, hopes to continue the Netflix/Sandler bromance, this time offering up a film with seasonal appeal. Halloween is an extremely popular holiday, and this gives Netflix the opportunity to attract Sandler fans, as well as those simply looking for something spooky to watch.
Although spooky isn’t perhaps the correct word to use, as this Halloween-themed movie does little to quicken the pulse. In fact, there are more scares in seasonal favourites such as Hocus Pocus (1993) or Ernest Scared Stupid (1991), than there are in this movie.
For those who have yet to watch a trailer for Hubie Halloween, the film follows the story of Hubie Dubois – a well-meaning man who loves Halloween. But unfortunately, Hubie’s love for the season is overshadowed by the continual criticism and pretty awful bullying that is heaped upon him by his neighbours and colleagues.
Hubie has spent his life being treated like a second-class citizen – so much so, that even his own mother is concerned this torment will never end if he doesn’t fight back. But Hubie doesn’t have that kind of fight in him, and instead he soldiers on, letting the put downs and the insults fly over his head.
But there is one thing he can’t ignore – the seemingly bizarre occurrences taking place in his home town, which appear to centre around a werewolf, an escaped mental patient, and a series of kidnappings. Can he get to the bottom of this situation before it escalates any further, and will his intervention change the way he is perceived by his peers?
For those answers and more you will have to check out the movie. That is, if you can get past arguably the film’s biggest obstacle – the lead actor.
It’s fair to say that Adam Sandler movies are very divisive. While some people love the comedian and believe he is a misunderstood actor, with a good collection of films under his belt, others find his particular schtick grating, and are quite critical of his movie portfolio.
I must admit I lean more towards the latter when it comes to Sandler films, but I do believe the actor has delivered some strong performances and some great movies. The Wedding Singer (1998), 50 First Dates (2004), and Uncut Gems (2019), are all great examples of strong Sandler movies with excellent performances from the actor.
I would like to add Hubie Halloween to this list, so that it can become a Sandler movie to champion; but I am afraid I cannot. While the movie is fine for the most part, I have one big issue with it – and that issue is Sandler.
Remove Sandler from this picture, and Hubie Halloween is a fairly enjoyable romp, loaded with fun cameos (more about those shortly), and some excellent set design. If you love Halloween, then you will love looking at this movie as every inch of the film is packed with seasonal touches, highlighting a real love for this particular holiday.
But with Sandler in the picture, Hubie Halloween is a disappointment. His performance is nothing less than appalling – seriously appalling – and this drags down what could have been a decent film.
In terms of characterisation, Hubie Dubois is supposed to be a little different to everyone else in his neighbourhood, and this could have provided Sandler with the opportunity to deliver a stand-out, nuanced performance, to create a loveable character that audiences could rally around. However, Sandler has wasted this opportunity and instead serves up an embarrassing stereotype, who mumbles his way through the movie.
At various points during the course of Hubie Halloween, I increased the volume on my television set, in the vain hope that I could decipher what Sandler was saying. Unfortunately, this didn’t work and instead led to over 90 minutes of me adjusting and readjusting the sound to try and understand him.
This is not how I want to spend my time watching a movie, but then I also don’t want to spend my time watching an actor delivering such a dreadful performance. I honestly don’t know what Sandler was thinking, or why director Steven Brill didn’t tell him to take a different approach.
At best, Hubie Dubois is a weak, one-note character, who sucks up far too much screen time. At worst he appears to be making a mockery of someone with learning difficulties and this just isn’t acceptable.
Earlier in this post, I mentioned the movie Ernest Scared Stupid, one of the many entries in the popular Ernest film series from the ‘80s and ‘90s. In those films, the late actor, Jim Varney played a character not-too dissimilar from Hubie Dubois – someone who is well-intentioned and often put upon.
What separates Varney’s Ernest from Sandler’s Hubie is the way in which the actors approached their respective roles. Varney brought heart to Ernest, and completely threw himself into the role; while Sandler appears to be attempting some half-cooked impersonation that he conjured up on his lunch break.
Where is the Sandler of Uncut Gems? Why did he not try harder with this role?!
Watching this film, with Sandler front-and-centre, is infuriating and it is such a huge shame. Had this actor not appeared in this movie, or had he rethought his character, then I would be far more complementary, because there is some fun in Hubie Halloween.
As previously noted, this is a good-looking picture, with a great attention to detail when it comes to Halloween. It is also jam-packed with cameos, including Ben Stiller, Shaquille O’Neal, Maya Rudolph, and the excellent Michael Chiklis, who all bring something to the table.
Every time a new actor appeared on screen my mood lifted – and this was when the film was hitting its stride. And although my interest level started to wane when the cameos became less frequent, the film still had some charm.
Is this a particularly funny movie? Not really. Even those who like Sandler’s comedies will be hard pushed to find that many laughs here, but the Halloween spirit (no pun intended) carries things along and it certainly isn’t terrible.
Ultimately, this film is watchable, but fairly disposable. I’ve no doubt it will find a fanbase with younger audiences, and may gain some traction over subsequent Halloweens, but for now it offers scant entertainment.
Hubie Halloween isn’t a trick, it certainly isn’t a treat, it’s simply a 102-minute diversion. If you like Sandler then you will find some enjoyment, but if you really can’t stand him, then this film won’t change your opinion and I recommend you revisit Hocus Pocus for the 20th time instead.