There are three tiers when it comes to the Sandman’s films. I am of course not taking into account films like Drunk Punch Love and Uncut Gems, which are quality films that Sandler starred in, but is creatively distant from.
There’s the bottom of the barrel lot, featuring the likes of Jack and Jill and The Ridiculous 6. There’s mid-tier, which entertains but remains largely mediocre, like Mr Deeds. Then there are the films that are not exactly slamming it with the critics, but have gained enough favour with audiences that that it doesn’t really matter, films like Little Nicky, Water Boy and Happy Gilmore.
Despite how ridiculous Little Nicky is, I have watched it so many times that I can actually quote lines from the film (that deep South joke always gets me). So where are we on the Sandman scale when it comes to Hubie Halloween? I would say mid-tier level. It entertains (though a tad long there, Sandman), but it doesn’t quite possess the charm for a revisit.
Sandler returns with his signature mumble for Hubie Dubois, who is the nicest man in Salem, resolved in his duty to protect the town and keep the community safe, even though no one really likes him or wants him to. He is also the biggest scaredy-cat, getting pranked with such frequency it’s amazing he hasn’t had any heart attacks. Hubie is often seen on his bike, with his signature thermos, which is a running gag in the film – think Swiss Army knife but for thermoses. He uses his thermos for everything; it becomes a shovel for grave digging, an umbrella for protection in a food fight, a torchlight, and so much more than I can mention in this review. Oh, it’s also used for soup, which seems to be the only thing that Hubie ever ingests.
As is typical in a Sandler film, Hubie Halloween stacked with a whole host of familiar faces, with the likes of Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, Maya Rudolph, even Sandler’s wife and daughters make an appearance in the film. Buscemi is undoubtedly the highlight as Hubie’s neighbour, who starts behaving way suspiciously around a full moon. And that’s what I love about the film. Every single actor, no matter the ridiculousness involved, commits a hundred percent to the role. So yeah, you are going to see Buscemi going howl-crazy in the forest, Shaq lady and the tramping a sandwich with Betsy Sodaro, and Tim Meadows doing weird things with his Halloween costume. Let’s not forget June Squibb, who plays Hubie’s mother, often seen touting the most inappropriate graphic t-shirts while looking so sweet and harmless.
Julie Bowen, who plays Hubie’s love interest Violet Valentine, is somehow able to convince us that she has a thing for Hubie Dubois. While their pairing doesn’t quite have the chemistry that Sandler has had with co-stars like Jennifer Aniston or Drew Barrymore, it’s competent enough. There are also quite a few young faces in this one, like Noah Schnapp, Peyton List and China Anne McClain.
I appreciate the references to various horror films, like Halloween, In the Tall Grass, Jaws, Scream and more. Hubie and his mother live on Elm Street, which of course makes us think of Nightmare on Elm Street. The film is also chock-full of horror-themed music, from “Monster Mash” to Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater”, as well as the Ghostbusters theme song.
Funnily enough, considering the message of the film, it seems like something pitched at children, but the jokes are often a tad crude, so Hubie Halloween hovers in a weird in-between space. Like Hubie Dubois, many of Sandler’s characters are outsiders in society, sometimes saddled with an overprotective parent because of the fear that their child will get bullied or taken advantage of. The end result is these characters breaking away to lead independent lives, but never losing that kindness that is so inherent to who they are. Sandler’s movies seem to be saying, “let’s have a good time, but also, remember to be a good human being.”
The film ends with a dedication to Cameron Boyce, the Disney star who died tragically back in 2019. It made me tear up a little, as I think about his loss, and the kind of year 2020 has been. A Sandler film like Hubie Halloween couldn’t have come at a better time. It gave me a moderate amount of laughs and an entertaining afternoon with my family, which I am grateful for as I push forward to a new day.
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