Adam Sandler's latest Netflix flick proves to be another sluggish and unfunny affair
Adam Sandler has had one of the most successful careers in Hollywood. From his breakout in Saturday Night Live (1975-), to his comedy box office hits in the 90s and 2000s, the American actor was then one of the first to sign a multi-picture deal with Netflix in 2015 for over $200 million. The result has been a head start for him in the streaming world, with users getting accustomed to seeing him at home. After Sandler’s first five films with Netflix proved further hits, he renewed his deal, the first product of this second pact is Hubie Halloween (2020).
Hubie Halloween is the story of Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler) the “village idiot,” if you will, of Salem, Massachusetts. He’s an avid Halloween fan, living with his mother (June Squib) and decorating his lawn heavily with skeletons, tombstones, and pumpkins. Hubie, however, is heavily bullied by everyone ranging from high school kids to the adults from his alma mater. This particular Halloween, however, something sinister seems afoot, with a new mysterious neighbor moving in (Steve Buscemi), a breakout from a nearby mental institution, and resident disappearances. Hubie is the only one observant enough, but no one might be willing to listen to him.
This newest Sandler comedy follows his previous films’ formula to a painstaking degree. All the cliches of his films appear here, from the unrealistic romantic interest (Julie Bowen), to the cameos of Sandler’s celebrity friends (Kevin James, Rob Schneider, Ben Stiller), to Sandler donning a funny voice throughout, to a heavy use of SNL alumni (Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Mikey Day). This formula worked in previous films, as they were surrounded by a stable script and some solid jokes, but with Netflix, Sandler gets complete freedom, resulting in lazily scripted films. From The Ridiculous Six (2016), to The Do Over (2016), and even the modestly entertaining Murder Mystery (2019), the effort put into the humor and narrative seem to be minimal. In Hubie Halloween, actors seem to show up on sets without written dialogue and encouraged to improvise. This works with the more adept comedians, such as Rudolph, but makes the rest of the cast carry heavy loads and thus the majority of jokes fall flat. The film is co-written by Sandler and directed in an automated style by Steven Brill, whose never shown to be very imaginative with his visual style or conduction of comedic rhythm (his other films include Sandy Wexler (2017) and Movie 43 (2013)).
Hubie Halloween does have a more interesting message than most recent Sandler comedies: that of bullying. It seemed to be a noble effort that the film was trying to embark, in raising awareness to a seeming ubiquitous world full of insults, strife, and belittling. Whether intentional or not, the pains suffered by Hubie in the film seem to be eerily encapsulating the aura suffocating western society today. Even with such great intentions, however, the themes are not fully exploited or presented in affecting and original ways.
Hubie Halloween end up being another forgetful entry in Sandler’s Netflix repertoire, which nevertheless is proving to be a fountain of gold for the actor. Hubie Halloween is a sluggishly written and mapped film, whose mortifyingly slow pace, lack of funny jokes and originality drag any viewer down. The film’s ani-bullying message does prove to be a spark of light and good intentions in the jumble, but it barely registers constructively in viewers’ minds due to the ineffective filmmaking employed.