Review – Hubie Halloween

Hubie Halloween poster

Overview

Synopsis Hubie Dubois is Salem’s self-appointed caretaker that intends to keep the township safe from whatever evil may be afoot during the town’s Halloween festivities, despite constant mockery from his fellow citizens.

Length 1 hour, 42 minutes

Release Date October 7, 2020

 

Rating PG-13

Distribution Netflix

Directing Steven Brill

Writing Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler

Composition Rupert Gregson-Williams

Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Julie Bowen, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, June Squibb, Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows

Back in 2019, when Adam Sandler was on the Academy Awards campaign trail for his critically acclaimed film, Uncut Gems, he made an interesting threat to the Press: “If I don’t get it [an Academy Award nomination], I’m going to [expletive] come back and do one again that is so bad on purpose­­—just to make you all pay… That’s how I get them”.  

Alas, Uncut Gems—whilst deserving—failed to attain a single Oscar nomination. Now Adam Sandler’s newest film, Hubie Halloween, is on Netflix. Has Sandler made good on his threat? Has he intentionally created the worst film of his career?

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: This film isn’t classed as a horror, though since it is set during Halloween it does contain a spooky vibe and lightly plays along with scary movie tropes. Over exaggerated characters explore creepy environments (corn mazes, run-down houses, poorly lit back roads, etc) and are kidnapped suddenly by an unseen force. The movie is set in Salem, so there are many references to the witch trials (including someone that wishes to burn people at the stake). One character vomits Exorcist style. Zombies in a black and white film are seen biting a victim’s cheek; some gore. Some of the Halloween costumes are on the gory side. A cat is violently tossed and later threatened (though it’s obvious the cat is a stuffed toy during the action). A pig is violently killed off screen.

Language/Crude Humor: While this film somehow avoids dropping the f-bomb, it does manage to utter a multitude of other potty-mouthed swears including the s-word a small handful of times. Curse words and references revolving around male genitalia are frequent, along with other b-grade, immature derogatory remarks (so many fart and poop jokes). H*ll is said a few times and God’s name is used in vain. One character innocently wears t-shirts with crass, sex-related humor. A character is caught unawares on the toilet (sitting down, their pants around their ankles). One character urinates in public. Human faeces are spotted on the floor as part of a gag.

Drug/Alcohol References: Teens are seen drinking beer and vaping. The punch is spiked during a party. The main character is offered alcoholic beverages. 

Sexual Content: There are multiple times when characters talk about what turns them on sexually. Numerous characters dress up in sexually-suggestive costumes (mostly as Harley Quinn). Unmarried characters kiss each other. A sausage is comically placed on a dummy to look like a penis.

Spiritual Content: There is a priest in the film, though he behaves in the same fashion as the other characters in the township. Whilst the film only carries loose theological references (brief mentions of Heaven and Hell), its main message about being nice to one another is in line with the Christian worldview.  

Other Negative Content: The townsfolk are particularly mean-spirited towards the main character, and they frequently bully him both verbally and physically, along with psychologically tormenting him. Although these scenes are paired with slapstick humor, so everything is done with a light-hearted tone. One teacher swears at and degrades a young student in public.

Positive Content: This film strongly preaches the message to not instantly judge or hate those that are different, and to treat people with kindness where possible. It ultimately shines a light on those that selflessly serve the community out of the goodness of their heart.

Review

Hubie Halloween is an Adam Sandler movie.

For some, that’s all they need to know in order to judge whether or not they wish to see this film. The man is practically a genre unto himself at this point. He has his fans. He also definitely has his haters. One criticism that’s constantly thrown around is that Adam Sandler tends to always play the same type of person. Once again we see a bumbling, mentally immature man with an odd speech pattern in Hubie. Though burgeoning actors may want to take note, as there’s a lot to learn from Adam Sandler’s approach to Hollywood.

Adam Sandler has taken an interesting career path. When it comes to roles, people outside of the industry tend to think that “typecasting” is a dirty word. Actors don’t want to fall victim to it, and that’s somewhat true. However it’s irksome when viewers criticize actors for “always playing themselves” as that only adds fuel to the fire. The truth is that you can never not play yourself. It’s impossible to be another person. The character will always be an extension, no matter how remote, of the actor’s personality, worldview and mannerisms. A hundred people can audition for a role and there will be a hundred different variations. This is why casting coaches will urge actors to bring themselves to the audition room, challenging them with the question, “What do you bring to the role?” Some acting choices will be smarter than others, but performers can be at peace knowing that no matter what, they will always be unique.

There’s a lot more to say about this topic as casting is largely misunderstood, as it simultaneously offers endless opportunities whilst also relying heavily on stereotypes. For the most part, from an actor’s perspective, the first steps into the industry are all about understanding your marketability. You’re always going to have an easier time landing the role of characters that have the personality or looks stereotypically similar to your own. The more an actor has to stretch to suit the role, the greater the risk of looking inauthentic compared to another actor that may be a more natural fit. It’s hard to get cast against type. Yet there aren’t many actors that study the art form in order to simply “play themselves”. There’s an immense level of enjoyment in exploring the mindset of an entirely different character, which leads to an intense journey of self-discovery to find that “other person” that lives buried within ourselves.

Acknowledging and submitting to typecasting is how an actor will begin their career, but not many will stick with it. It’s creatively mind numbing to play the same sort of character over and over again. It’s a double-edged sword; many actors will fear that audiences will forever see them in certain roles and therefore they’ll never have the freedom to explore otherwise, which is why many are quick to shed their initial narrative archetype. Yet for the actor that doesn’t care about artistic exploration, there’s a lot of success that can be found in continuing to build their niche. Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy, Michelle Rodriguez, and many more have only seen their careers blossom over the years due to mastering and carving out a certain subset of roles to keep to themselves.

Then there’s Adam Sandler. He has not only embraced his typecast, but he’s also managed to brand entire narratives and productions. He’s capitalized on his own stereotype—he played Hollywood’s game until he had the power to subsist inside his own little artistic ecosystem. We know he can act. He’s in the enviable position where he has the power to create his own content should he ever feel the urge to stretch himself as an actor. Most of the time he sticks to what he knows, and that’s fine. Sure, as a film critic, I do lament that Sandler’s works don’t contribute much to the artistry of cinema as a whole, but I’m not going to sit here and demand that every filmmaker must express themselves in the same way. Film is an art form and provided it isn’t exploitative, everyone has the right to use it as they see fit. Adam Sandler has found a way to make money while having fun with his friends, and it’s hard to criticize a man that’s essentially living every actor’s dream, even if he did take an unconventional pathway to get there.

There are enough Sandler films out there now that they offer a certain amount of familiarity. They’re like a warm blanket. Ok, it’s one that features a kitsch pattern, a few rips, and a sports couple of urine stains, but it’s a comfortable, familiar blanket nonetheless that we should’ve discarded long ago but for some reason we’re still lovingly clinging onto it.

It’s hard to describe what exactly an Adam Sandler film has to offer. For the most part, they seem to operate like basic morality tales for adults. A lot of his works feature overt, simplistic messages, much like the thematic lesson one would find at the end of an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Yet these children’s tales are wrapped up within an adult’s narrative, filled with crude humor and sexual references (granted, they’re noticeable but not as overdone as other adult comedies). Adam Sandler’s somewhat slapstick routines and exaggerated characters would work a treat if he opened up to the possibility of offering family-friendly entertainment, though unfortunately his films always contain that bit of an edge which makes them inappropriate for that demographic.

Hubie Halloween is no different in that regard. It’s like watching a live action cartoon with Saturday Night Live style humor occurring in the background. It’s mental fluff; there’s nothing challenging regarding the themes. In fact, it taps into weird sort of nostalgia. Hubie Dubois is one of Sandler’s less realistic characters—none of the cast are really grounded in reality or could be seen to exist in the real world. Yet the cliché story formula still exudes a certain amount of warmth. Hubie is like Naruto; he’s bullied relentlessly by the entire township but the character has a heart of gold, and despite his exaggerated personality, that type of character still manages to cut through the audience’s cynicism with those Christian-like morals shining through at the end. You just can’t hate the guy even though the film essentially bludgeons viewers with its overt preaching.

Hubie Halloween is great for those that want to get into the spirit of the spooky season but don’t want to commit to a horror film. It spoofs a lot of horror movie tropes, and while some scenes start to get a little eerie, it isn’t long till it returns to its light-hearted vibe. The runtime is on the long side, where the plot takes one turn too many after running out of steam and requires a few awkwardly placed scenes to get rolling once again.

The comedy is definitely hit and miss. Hubie Halloween tries too hard in many ways and it’s interesting how many of its intended jokes fail to land only for an off-handed comment to sneak up and elicit a few giggles. I must admit, I did chuckle a few times, but that was in-between a lot of goofy but otherwise flat slapstick comedy.

For the most part, Hubie Halloween feels like a return to form for Adam Sandler movies. Admittedly I haven’t seen a lot of Sandler’s more recent works; I fell off the bandwagon sometime after the turn of the millennium and have heard atrocious reviews about his films from then on. Uncut Gems aside, he’s not seeking to create high art here. But his earlier films (The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison) did find an audience and fill a void in cinema, with Click and 50 First Dates being guilty pleasure flicks of mine. The characters in Hubie Halloween are more overdone than his past endeavours, though the film recreates the same spirit that made his brand so popular in the first place. Fans will appreciate the many callbacks and easter eggs to his previous films, and there is an early cameo that will elicit a giggle of joy.

So is this Sandler’s worst film? I haven’t seen his full filmography, but no, I found Little Nicky to be worse. If I had to guess, I’d say it sits around the middle. So has Adam Sandler failed at making a revenge film? Once again it’s a no. Hubie Halloween would’ve already been in production when he made that threat. Although the multiple nods to his previous films does lend credence to the idea that a “Sandlerverse” might be in the mix. If so, that could very well be the pinnacle of Sandler’s badness, to which I’m oddly excited to see unfold.

Interestingly, 2020 has been such a bad year for cinema that Hubie Halloween doesn’t even come close to be the worst comedy of the year. I’m a sucker for awkward humor and enjoyed Love. Wedding. Repeat whilst I found that Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga to surprisingly punch above its weight. In comparison, Hubie Halloween holds its own, but it delivers what’s expected. Comedy is subjective, and this year has certainly skewed my marking criteria due to how many truly awful films I’ve watched which has made average movies seem like gold, but even so, I will say this is an entertaining film that is worth a look if you’re in the mood for some light-hearted spooky fun.

Positives

+ It's a return to form for Adam Sandler.
+ Oddly loveable.
+ Some jokes will catch you off guard.
+ Easter eggs.
+ A good mix of laughter and eeriness for those that don't like horror.

Negatives

- A lot of jokes don't land.
- Too crude for young/tween families despite its childlike morals.
- The plot gets stuck and requires an awkward jumpstart.

The Bottom Line

It’s an Adam Sandler movie: crude, groan-worthy, unexpectedly funny at times, before coddling audiences with its heart of gold.

 

5.8

Juliana Purnell

After obtaining a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Juliana Purnell has enjoyed a successful acting career, working within theme parks, businesses, and on film sets. She has also taken on crew roles, both in film and theatrical productions. When Juliana isn't working, she enjoys watching movies of all genres at the cinema, writing, and playing with Samson, her pomeranian.

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