By now, it's no secret that I love Adam Sandler.
Beyond the fact that Sandler's comedies nearly always make me laugh, Sandler is far more gifted an actor than he's given credit for and he's built a Happy Madison universe that employs those he trusts and those who are lucky enough to find themselves part of his cinematic world. With only a couple of exceptions, most notably That's My Boy! and Jack and Jill, I've nearly always given Sandler's films at least a modest recommendation.
While I will confess to having found the majority of Sandler's Netflix films a tad underwhelming, I've always found Sandler to be treated unfairly. When he's brilliant, as in films like Uncut Gems and Punch-Drunk Love, critics proclaim that he's merely playing a variation of himself or he's simply not given the credit he deserves as an actor. When he has an average low-brow Sandler flick, critics brutally proclaim it the worst film ever and he's slammed with undeserved Razzie nominations.
Sandler is neither the best actor out there nor the worst. Sandler is, well, Adam Sandler.
I love Adam Sandler. In fact, if I could ever enter a cinematic universe I'd aspire to some weird appearance in some silly Sandler comedy alongside Allen Covert, whom I've adored for years.
So, it shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise when I say that I loved Hubie Halloween. I will confess that I was somewhat worried going into the film, mostly courtesy of Sandler's somewhat joking vow that if he didn't snag an Academy Award nomination for Uncut Gems, as he should have, that he would follow it up with the worst film he'd ever made.
I feel very comfortable saying that Hubie Halloween is not the worst film Sandler has ever made.
Hubie Halloween is silly. Hubie Halloween is sweet. Hubie Halloween is funny. Hubie Halloween has a few simple messages similar to the kinds of messages that we always find in Adam Sandler films.
People are more than what they like look. People are more than what they sound like.
Everyone is capable of doing something special.
Hubie Halloween finds Sandler once again doing one of his Sandler-esque voices, a modest gimmick that is probably unnecessary but I've always found endearing and I found consistently funny.
But then again, I liked his voice in Little Nicky.
In Hubie Halloween, Sandler is Hubie Dubois, the unofficial, and often unwanted, keeper of Halloween safety and care in his hometown of Salem.
Yes, that Salem.
Halloween's a big deal in Salem, but Hubie Dubois is not other than, of course, the ongoing bullying that occurs throughout Hubie Halloween. It's funny, of course, but it's also not and perhaps more than in many of his motion pictures Sandler, along with co-writer Tim Herlihy, finds that perfect balance between "finding the humor" and "making fun of." For most of Hubie Halloween, we're all in on the fact that Hubie is one of the nicest guys in Salem but because he's a little different from everyone else he gets bullied instead.
There are few actors out there who portray this kind of character as well as Sandler, always finding the dignity within the undignified and refusing to allow us to not love someone just because they're different. Dramedy oozes from Sandler's cinematic pores and amidst the silliness Hubie Dubois becomes someone we absolutely adore.
If you're even remotely familiar with contemporary horror flicks, and mostly I'm talking about those made in Sandler's lifetime, you'll undoubtedly recognize more than a few tips o' the pumpkin to horror films past. I'm not going to tell you which ones - that's for you to figure out for yourself. Sandler and Herlihy, along with regular Sandler collaborator director Steven Brill, incorporate them all beautifully both in terms of plot and visual imagery.
There were times I laughed out loud.
Actually, there were a lot of times I laughed out loud.
Hubie loves Halloween. Hubie loves Salem. Hubie loves the people of Salem, though they really don't love him back. This year, however, Salem is on the lookout for a killer who has escaped from a nearby asylum while an unusual new neighbor is arousing more than a little suspicion.
Hubie is determined to protect the town and the people that he love.
If you haven't been able to tell yet, I loved Hubie Halloween. I loved its warm affection and silly humor. I loved its camaraderie and story. I loved the characters, brought beautifully to life by an ensemble cast comprised mostly of Sandler regulars along with a handful of newcomers to Sandler's world.
Hubie Halloween isn't a perfect film. It could be a little more tightly edited and not every joke lands quite the way it's supposed to land. There's no denying the story arc's a familiar one and Hubie Halloween goes almost exactly where you expect it to go.
None of that matters.
Hubie Halloween is Adam Sandler being the Adam Sandler we love. It's a film with a good heart and a lot of laughs. It's a film with a sense of purpose and a sense of imagination. It's a film that will make you laugh and it's a film that will make you mumble under your breath "aww shucks."
Sandler could do this type of role in his sleep, but he doesn't. He shows up and he has fun and he surrounds himself with people who make him laugh and make him smile. You can feel the goodness in his performance and it left me smiling from beginning to end.
Julie Bowen is an absolute gem as Violet Valentine and, yes, even the name made me smile. There's often an attractive female in Sandler's silly little films. They love him or they don't. They want to or they're scared to. They harbor a crush or simply adore his goofy charm. Sometimes it's romantic, sometimes it's not. Sandler always keeps it realistic and, refreshingly, that usually also means casting actresses close to his age such as the attractive, talented 50-year-old Bowen. For me, it makes it all the more adorable as we realize this good-hearted guy and this single, foster-mom are capable of seeing the diamond in the rough. You'll love Bowen here. I certainly did.
June Squibb, an under-appreciated actress mostly known for dramatic roles, is delightful as Hubie's mom. She's quietly hilarious in ways I dare not describe here, though it's a joy watching her and Sandler together. She tends to act at a different pace, but Sandler slows down and together they wring humor out of normalcy.
There are certain roles that are best left undescribed, as well, because the joy of a Sandler film is really watching how he's going to use those Sandler familiars in the film. Rob Schneider is here, briefly yet awesomely, while Steve Buscemi awesomely shines and Kevin James is a bushier Kevin James as Sgt. Downey. Ray Liotta, Kenan Thompson, Michael Chiklis, and Ben Stiller all add special moments. Maya Rudolph and Tim Meadows show up and, as always, they make everything better.
Shaquille O'Neal? You'll just have to see for yourself.
My beloved Allen Covert? While he's mostly behind the scenes these days, he's here as always and he always makes me laugh.
The music is a blast, including "Monster Mash," which I've long considered the official song of Halloween. As has become a tradition in Sandler films, you'll see kids and grandkids with familiar last names including Sandler, Covert, Liotta, James, Brill, Herlihy, and more.
Indeed, the family spirit shines in Hubie Halloween.
So, there you have it.
The truth is that I loved Hubie Halloween, an entertaining gem of a film with a good heart, a kind message, an awful lot of laughs, and a few imperfections along the way. If there's one thing I learn in Sandler film after Sandler film, it's that our imperfections may make us different but they also make us something pretty incredibly special.
Hubie Halloween is something pretty incredibly special.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic