Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler) is a lot of things. He’s a volunteer, a delicatessen worker, a loving son to his elderly mother, a passionate soup drinker, surprisingly resourceful in a fight and incredibly agile in avoiding the objects that his neighbours throw his way anytime he steps outside his house. He’s a fun character to follow; but anyone who’s been familiar with the comedian’s career will agree that more than anything, he’s an excuse for Adam Sandler to make a goofy voice for an hour and forty minutes and have fun with his celebrity friends.
This is far from the first time Sandler has taken Netflix along in his shenanigans. Responses to these efforts have varied widely, as those who appreciated a more serious Sandler in Noah Baumbach’s Meyerowitz Stories or the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems despaired to always see him go back to his ‘less sophisticated’ comedies — and it’s true, Hubie Halloween is nothing new. Steven Brill’s story of a lovable misfit trying to save his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts from evil forces is never truly surprising beyond the odd quirk or slightly above-average joke.
And yet, as we approach what will probably be one of the least eventful Halloweens in our lives — for many, getting to see a good old-fashioned horror comedy that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that feels like a welcome comfort. Maybe the difficulty of lockdown has gotten to all of us; maybe the lack of new releases and the newfound value of loneliness combatant many of us have found in entertainment has drastically lowered our standards for what can be considered a ‘good’ movie. Or maybe, just maybe, this might actually be a really pleasant watch.
Spending a lot of time amongst cinephiles who naturally gravitate towards high-art, critically acclaimed films can make anyone forget about the things casual viewers look for in a movie. We all have different sensibilities, and there’s nothing wrong with that; but there’s also nothing wrong with Sandler wanting to keep making his silly pieces of escapism. They may not reinvent anything or earn prestigious awards nominations, but they have an audience who will delight in their presence. And this one has something even more valuable to offer than simply a couple hours to forget about the state of the world and a good dose of toilet humour: it also has a heart.
Hubie’s character isn’t particularly original. He has more compassion than he has brains, and the town of bullies that he lives in seems pretty happy to take advantage of it for their own sadistic pleasure. The extent of their cruelty is more horrific than any werewolf or ghost could turn out to be. As likeable as they usually are, it’s hard to get behind Maya Rudolph, Ray Liotta or Kenan Thompson when they torment the poor guy for no other reason than having a funny voice and a childish demeanour. Even as the turns of the story become increasingly predictable, we have no choice but to root for the unlikely hero Sandler portrays.
The comedy of Hubie Halloween is, without much surprise, not very sophisticated; but most of the time it works. The physical comedy is unexpectedly effective rather than exhausting, and the fair bit of absurdism that makes its way into the film gives it the perfect hint of originality to separate it from other average comedies on Netflix’s platform. Even the least inspired bits go by quickly as Brill’s understanding of pacing and timing keep us moving swiftly forward.
There’s no need to lie: there’s nothing groundbreaking about Hubie Halloween. It’s a silly comedy from a silly man, one where the ending can be guessed about five minutes into the runtime. The guy solves the mystery, gets the girl, farts a few times and saves the day in the end. Nothing about the cinematography, editing or acting style will make an impact on cinema or stay with you beyond a few hours after the end of the film. But what makes it valuable may not be linked to its content at all: in this strange time on Earth, getting to see people creating something and clearly having a blast while doing so is probably the most inspiring it’s ever been. Add to this more than a few well timed references to beloved horror movies and previous Sandler antics, and you get a strange comfort watch that might not stand the test of time for long, but feels more than welcome today.
Hubie Halloween is available to stream exclusively on Netflix now
by Callie Hardy
Callie (she/her) is a Belgian New Media student currently living in Dublin. She enjoys female-fronted horror, nostalgic adaptations of childhood classics and every outfit Blake Lively wears in A Simple Favor. She’s usually pretty honest, but if you catch her saying that her favourite film is anything other than Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, you should know that she’s lying. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Letterboxd.