Hubie Halloween (2020)
The spook season is upon us! And what could be more horrifying, more terrifying, more utterly mortifying than a new Adam Sandler film?
Pictured: True horror.
No, but honestly, I saw the trailer for Hubie Halloween (2020) on Netflix one bright and sunny afternoon, and I was genuinely and embarrassingly excited. It reminded me of old classic Adam Sandler films that I still love through rose-tinted glasses, with a healthy blend of Ernest Scared Stupid (1991). And it wasn’t just me: my wife, who has hated the fact that I’ve watched so many bad movies just so that I can write about them, admits that she was excited by that trailer!
Sure, Murder Mystery (2019) is a bland mess and no one can really agree on what the last “good” Adam-Sandler-style Adam Sandler film is (even if it is You Don’t Mess with The Zohan (2008), don’t @ me). But this is different. This isn’t just an Adam Sandler joynt. This is a fun, kids-style horror movie with heart and Steve Buscemi. Where could it go wrong?
Firstly, it’s a bland mess.
Honestly, I have no one to blame but myself.
Positives though, it has one twist halfway through that I did see coming, but not exactly in the way that it pans out. It made me laugh; I liked where they went with it. The way it was set up, the way they subverted those set ups; all really good stuff for one plot point. Man, if I could write a whole review on that plot point:
Pictured: Steve Buscemi reprising his role from Hotel Transylvania (2012).
EXCEPT I’m not writing a review on that one plot point.
As a whole, it just doesn’t work. The world can’t decide whether it lives in this heightened reality or not, which gives an odd juxtaposition where I can’t tell if there are no stakes or all of the stakes, all at once. The mystery that the whole film revolves around is interesting enough that I wanted to know what exactly was happening, but the way it eventually shakes down is just kind of bland.
The character of Hubie is kind of hilarious from a story point of view. If you’ve ever looked at something like Paddington 2 (2017), people talk about how the protagonists themselves don’t change, but the people around them do. In the case of Paddington, this is because he is so overwhelmingly wholesome and good, people can’t help but be sucked up in the goodness.
Apparently, Hubie is this kind of goodness.
Pictured: Pure goodness.
Adam Sandler, portraying a man with a mental disability, who the popular girl at school was secretly always in love with, is just that kind of goodness.
Hubie, who projectile vomits on the road and just leaves it, is just THAT KIND OF GOODNESS.
And that last note there is kind of the crux of the whole film. Hubie Halloween has its heart in the right place, no question. This is a 90-minute-long, Happy Maddison production, anti-bullying PSA.
Which is why I’m gonna try not to be so nasty.
I mean, when you have such a dislikeable main character who is just a genuine menace around town, EVEN THOUGH HE IS TRYING TO BE A GOOD GUY, it’s just a little hard to entirely believe the message. It kind of reminds me of when Ricky Gervais did Derek (2012-2014). Gervais attempted to tell a genuinely heartfelt story and portray a man with a disability who only sees the good in people. Except, (and who would’ve thought this would have ever been written), Ricky Gervais had nuance. In his writing and in his performance.
Adam Sandler is just The Waterboy (1998) again.
Now sure, I think the anti-bullying message is good, and right, but it is so over the top I can’t buy in. A pretty consistent sight gag is that, wherever Hubie goes, he has three increasingly silly things thrown at him. In every scene with travelling it happens, because this town HATES Hubie. Now to be fair, yes, this sort of deadly hate is unjustified. Ray Liotta plays a man who hates Hubie so much, he throws Hubie down an open grave… at his own father's funeral… because Hubie was disrespecting his father's funeral…
Yes, no one can deny that that sort of bullying and abuse is unjustified and terrible, even if it is just Adam Sandler doing an annoying voice. However, it doesn’t mean that you literally make the victim the sheriff. Spoiler alert, that’s what happens. That’s the end of the movie. Resolution: he is the sheriff now.
Every Adam Sandler film seems to just be an excuse for Adam Sandler and his friends to go on holiday. This always leads to some of the most bland, phoned in films possible. They’re not even there to get a paycheck; they’re there for the room service. And apparently, they don’t have any of that in Salem, because this film seems to have a lot of effort put in.
There’s a reason that trailer grabbed me so much: this looks like a film. The production design reminds me of those kids horror classics like Goosebumps (2015) or The Monster Squad (1987). The Halloween/Salem setting is taken full advantage of, with great costumes, fun decorations and creative cinematography.
Pictured: An actual movie.
The corn maze set is a real stand out, even if, story-wise, they don’t do a whole lot with it. Hell, every location felt like a real, unique place that was both lived in and alive.
It’s amazing what you can do when you try to actively make a movie.
One of the things I love so much about You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008) is that you actively see the life and death of a single joke. I saw it in a packed cinema (remember those times?) and the whole audience felt it. It was the hummus joke. It started off kinda quirky, but it was used so much that it became pretty funny, then hilarious. Then suddenly, the final, ultimate version of that same joke-that hummus goes with everything-bombed. Literally, no one even reacted. And it was a big set piece, where Adam Sandler attached hummus to a firehouse and put out a housefire with it… and literally no one snickered.
Pictured: he even held it over his junk, and it still wasn't funny. Just perfect.
It was beautiful.
Anyway, the thermos is the opposite of the hummus. The gag is that his thermos, which he carries everywhere, is a magical utility thermos that can do literally anything. If he needs something in a scene, no matter what that something is, it can do that thing. Even hold soup! And the only time it is kind of funny is when it holds soup. It's like an anti-joke.
Pictured: You just don't get it. You see, the joke is THERMOS.
Overall, that’s the biggest problem with the film: it’s just not very funny. It’s wall to wall visual gags, but none of them are funny. The story is kind of interesting, but other than that one twist, not very funny. Adam Sandler's voice is incomprehensible, but not funny. Even Maya Rudolph, who I never not love, wasn’t all that funny.
Shaq is funny, so that's nice. Rob Schneider is pretty funny, so hey, that’s a huge surprise.
The only thing of real note, and to be fair… THIS IS A BIGGUN'! Is that right before watching the movie, I read an article about how Adam Sandler wants to make an Avengers (2012) style Happy Maddison cross-over movie. Even though I haven’t liked the last 12 years of movies… I want that… I want that a lot… I’m ashamed to admit that…
And low and behold, in the VERY FIRST SCENE of the movie… Ben Stiller is there… playing Orderly Hal… from Happy Gilmore (1996).
Pictured: be careful what you wish for!
THE CROSS-OVER HAS ALREADY BEGUN AND I WAS WARNED, BUT I WAS NOT READY!
Anyway yeah, I dunno, Hubie Halloween (2020) applied effort to the movie-making process, but not so much to the making-me-laugh process.