Silly, overstuffed and as sweet as anything Adam Sandler has done, Hubie Halloween is a full jack-o’-lantern in which the chocolates you hoped for far outnumber the butterscotch tooth-breakers. Co-written by Tim Herlihy and directed by Steven Brill, both of whom have participated in some of the star/co-writer’s cinematic high points and his very low ones, it’s a picture recalling the man-child goodwill of Sandler’s SNL years that behaves as if the meaner, cruder Grown Ups period never happened. Those choosing to stay at home instead of trick-or-treating during this year of unfunny horrors could do much worse than this.
Sandler’s eponymous character is a mush-mouthed 50-something who still lives with his mom (June Squibb) and has never been kissed (though he claims to have a Canadian girlfriend who lives in “Ontarianto”). Descended from a woman who begged townfolk to give up their witch hunts, Hubie is even less popular: Old classmates taunt him cruelly, and their children throw things at him as he bikes down the street. (Hubie dodges their missiles with physics-defying moves that recall one of the best of Sandler’s purely goofball outings, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.) The only Salemite who doesn’t hate the lovable loser is Violet Valentine (Happy Gilmore romantic interest Julie Bowen), the angel he has secretly loved since childhood.
(Far from hard-to-get, Violet has practically laid a trail of candy corn from Hubie’s porch to her lips. But nobody’s going to accuse the man of being bright, especially where women are concerned.)
Perhaps the world’s biggest fan of Halloween, Hubie Dubois feels it’s his duty to keep revelers safe on Salem’s big night. A self-appointed hall monitor who phones in every perceived threat to 911, he long ago wore out his welcome with local cops (Kevin James and Kenan Thompson). But this year, the danger might be real: A local mental hospital just lost track of a patient with grudges to settle in town, and Hubie’s kindly new neighbor Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi) may be a werewolf. And while he’s bumbling past these boogeymen, Hubie also feels compelled to look out for single-mom Violet’s oldest child Tommy (Noah Schnapp), who has snuck out of the house past curfew to woo his crush, Megan (Paris Berelc).
While finding ways to squeeze in not only nearly every one of Sandler’s Known Associates (James, Rob Schneider, Tim Meadows, the invaluable Maya Rudolph) but welcome newcomers to the gang like Melissa Villaseñor and Karan Brar, Sandler and Herlihy’s script works as hard as its hero. Its multiple-monsters scenario is surprisingly unpredictable and lets Brill flirt with a couple of horror-film templates, though the only person the movie really hopes to scare is the constantly startled Hubie himself: Unflappable in the face of childish cruelty, he leaps out of his skin at the most innocent Halloween gag.
Sandler’s guileless performance charms, as wholesomely simple as his knockout turn in Uncut Gems was multifaceted. And Brill keeps the supporting cast from going overboard, as they’re wont to do in Sandler pics. (We’re looking at you, Schneider and Meadows.) With the exception of a surprisingly useful thermos, nearly no joke in the film will be remembered the next day. But Hubie is good company for old fans who’ve visited Happy and Billy too often to be surprised by their foibles and unlikely feats.
Production company: Happy Madison
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Julie Bowen, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, June Squibb, Kenan Thompson, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sandler, Sunny Sandler, Paris Berelc
Director: Steven Brill
Screenwriters: Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler
Producers: Allen Covert, Kevin Grady, Adam Sandler
Executive producer: Barry Bernardi
Director of photography: Seamus Tierney
Costume designer: Wendy Chuck
Editors: Tom Costain, Brian Robinson, J.J. Titone
Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Casting directors: Barbie Block, Sally Stiner
PG-13, 104 minutes