Adam Sandler is one of the most interesting figures in modern Hollywood. He is best known for being projects hated by critics and loved by fans, such as “Click,” “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” and “Grown-Ups,” and the man actually has a lot of talent despite a large amount of his resume. Sometimes he can deliver jaw-dropping and award-winning performances, like he did last year with “Uncut Gems.” Other times he makes films like “Hubie Halloween.”
With this film, Sandler returns to his… polarizing roots, creating a spooky romp with a genuinely sweet message behind it. Unfortunately, said message is buried under condescending and immature jokes, sleep-inducing pacing and a barely entertaining lead performance from Sandler himself. Although the film does have moments of genuine humor, “Hubie Halloween” has Sandler playing it so safe that it is borderline offensive (and at times actually offensive).
“Hubie Halloween” takes place on Halloween in Salem, MA, where Hubie Dubois, played by Sandler, acts as the laughing stock of his neighborhood. Despite his kind heart and his passion for Halloween, he is easily scared by anything and everything, which makes it hard for people to take him seriously. But when things start to take a sinister turn on Halloween, Hubie has to set aside his fears and find the person terrorizing Salem. With companions like a sarcastic and lazy cop (Kevin James) and Hubie’s childhood crush, Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen), it is up to Hubie to save his town and the holiday he loves.
Sandler movies are infamous for how little they try when it comes to their writing, especially with the jokes. This film is sadly no exception. The film mostly relies on three kinds of jokes: puns, offensive jokes and jokes involving bodily fluids; barely any of these moments are actually funny. There are a handful of moments where the film indeed has clever writing that lead to moments of laughter, but they are few and far between to justify watching the entire movie.
Additionally, Sandler has apparently stopped trying with his portrayal of Hubie. His entire demeanor is based on only one kind of line delivery, typically with a derpy voice and face that he uses the whole time. These elements alone do not make a funny and likable character, but it seems like Sandler either forgot the memo or never got it.
When Hubie is not acting like a bumbling fool, he is overreacting from terror, often breaking things in his wake or falling over. To some it may prove amusing, but for the most part it just feels sad to watch. None of the supporting characters have performances that are amusing enough to overshadow Sandler’s performance, and seeing how there is little value in Hubie, that bodes anything but well for the movie as a whole.
On top of the unfunny writing and the unbearable acting, “Hubie Halloween” moves at a snail’s pace. Most of the film’s 102-minute runtime just kind of trudges along with no sense of urgency. Even when stakes are raised, it feels like the movie is dedicated to telling unfunny jokes rather than naturally progressing its story. The only reason the film isn’t completely worthless during these points is because the film has decent set design and occasionally amusing stunts. Despite having a bigger vision than some of Sandler’s other work, it feels like the movie has little to show for it.
“Hubie Halloween” is one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year. Occasional moments of comedy and great production design cannot hide how humorless and lazy the entire project is. Adam Sandler can make a good film when he tries; it is such a shame that he has seemingly stopped trying when it comes to good comedy.