Patrick White

Adam Sandler’s new movie, “Hubie Halloween,” is a return to form for the actor, for better and worse. Gone are the bland losers that he played in “Pixels” and “Grown Ups,” and gone are the Oscar talks for his performance in “Uncut Gems.” With his new Netflix film, Sandler commits to a role as silly as those that made him a star in the ’90s.

This makes sense considering one of his most beloved ’90s movie characters is an obvious link to the development of Hubie Dubois, his role in “Hubie Halloween.” Hubie sounds and acts like Bobby Boucher of 1998’s “The Waterboy.” He talks with a hesitant tone, and he dearly loves his mama, humorously played by June Squibb. But Hubie Dubois isn’t nearly as humorous or lovable as Bobby Boucher. This might be because it’s more entertaining to watch someone in his early thirties play a darling dummy rather than someone in his fifties. Regardless, Sandler commits to the role and brings to life a ridiculous Halloween comedy.

In “Hubie Halloween,” Hubie lives in historic Salem, Massachusetts. His family descends from a woman accused of being a witch after defending others who were accused. For that reason, Hubie does his best to defend those who most need it and protect his town on Halloween night. Unfortunately, the city doesn’t appreciate Hubie’s compassion and watchful eyes because this grown man is frequently the butt of jokes. Everyone’s favorite gag is to frighten Hubie because he’s easily startled.

No matter how hard they try to scare him, they never deter Hubie. He knows that his town needs him even when they don’t ask for help. One particular scary Halloween night challenges Hubie, and he must face off against a werewolf, a masked madman, and a mysterious kidnapper. No one believes Hubie can stop these monsters of the night, so he must believe in himself.

The movie’s message is thoughtful, and Sandler is a good goofball hero, but “Hubie Halloween” isn’t a consistently funny film. Early on, I chuckled a few times. Writer Tim Herlihy and Sandler scripted entertaining cameos, humorous puns, and over-the-top physical gags to great effect. After the first 20 minutes, I thought “Hubie Halloween” was going to be as good as “The Waterboy,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “Billy Madison.”

But it wasn’t to be. Sandler’s performance quickly becomes repetitive, toilet humor replaces clever wordplay, and the over-the-top physicality goes too far when hundreds of children pelt Hubie with food at an assembly. Thankfully, there are numerous appearances from SNL cast members, previous Sandler film stars, and random celebrities. These sightings helped keep me entertained until the credits rolled.

I’ll also give Herlihy and Sandler credit for constructing a screenplay with some clever twists that are rarely seen in Sandler’s films.

The writers effectively set up plot threads, which seem to have apparent conclusions, but they reverse course and reveal a more exciting and character-motivated twist.

Beyond that, the director, Steven Brill, also does a good job creating a horror tone without ever going too far. Brill clearly references “Halloween” and other horror classics, but he never loses sight of the comedy. By providing legitimate thrills opposite ridiculous gags, he easily maintains his PG-13 rating and makes “Hubie Halloween” mostly acceptable for families.

“Hubie Halloween” is not Sandler’s best film, but it’s not his worst either. It has some humorous moments, fun celebrity appearances, and a director who understands both genres he’s exploring. “Hubie Halloween” won’t convince Sandler’s former fans to love him again, but it also won’t scare away his loyal fans. And in 2020, that’s not a bad result for an Adam Sandler movie.

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