Sunday, July 14, 2024

Whatever Wednesday: ‘Hubie Halloween’

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Hubie Halloween is an Adam Sandler movie with a much bigger heart than his usual outings. It’s a clever movie, packed full of references to a slew of horror movies. Furthermore, if you squint, the film almost resembles a Hallmark movie, only for Halloween.

Steven Brill has directed Sandler movies before, but there’s something special about Hubie Halloween. It’s a better-looking movie visually, which is saying something because it’s also a Netflix movie. Yet, it’s also a much tighter movie than we’re used to from Sandler.

Oh, there are scenes where Sandler riffs, but those are funny and never drag on for too long. Even the script, written by Sandler and longtime writing partner Tim Herlihy, seems tighter. The jokes come at you like buckshot, some landing, some not. An eclectic mixture of sight gags, one-liners, gross-out humor, and broad slapstick, Hubie Halloween never settles on one style of comedy for too long.

Adam Sandler as Hubie Dubois

It feels weird to say, but there’s an odd welcoming spirit to Hubie Halloween that’s lacking in other Sandler movies. Or, perhaps it’s how the film is framed. For once, Sandler’s character, Hubie Dubois, is a put upon schlub who’s a nice guy. Most of the time, Sandler’s sweetness is hidden under a thick layer of violent sociopathic behavior, but here, he’s a gentle, easily scared, lovable goof.

One could argue that Sandler and Brill realized that the country had just spent the past four years engaged with the typical Sandler character in the White House, unlikely since this has always been Sandler’s style of humor. Still, the departure and its timing are hard to ignore.

The real surprise to me was Julie Bowen. Bowen plays the alliteratively named Violet Valentine and Hubie’s love interest. Bowen and Sandler have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen in a Sandler movie. Bowen knows when to counteract and when to compliment Sandler’s kookiness.

Juile Bowen as Violet Valentine with Sandler’s Hubie

Hubie’s and Violet’s relationship is the real story. Sure, there are other subplots like Hubie’s next-door neighbor, Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi), who may or may not be a werewolf. Or the subplot about the escaped inmate from a nearby asylum Richie Hartman (Rob Schnieder), which has Sgt. Steve Downey (Kevin James)—Violet’s ex-husband—jumpy, considering he testified against Richie at his trial.

Kevin James as Sgt. Downey and Adam Sandler as Hubie

But Brill ties it all together so well that we don’t even realize we’re watching a sweet little romantic comedy unfold. Granted, this is still an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s one where Sandler seems to like his love interest, which is a nice change of pace.

The always fantastic June Squibb plays Hubie’s mother, the rock of support and love in his life. Squibb has a running gag where every time she shows up, she’s wearing a different tee-shirt with sexual innuendos on them. It’s a crass gag, but I’d be lying to say if I wasn’t giggling almost every time.

hubie halloween
Yolande Bavan and June Squibb

One scene had me roaring, in which Hubie and his mother earnestly try to figure out what a boner is until the conversation dovetails to Hubie listing off all the bullies and what they’ve done to him. The punchline comes when his mother tries to tell his bullies apart and asks who used to chase Hubie around the front yard with a tennis racket. “That was dad.” Without missing a beat, Squibb shakes her head. “God rest his soul.”

The variety of jokes is the impressive part. One scene has Hubie riding his bike into a car, flinging his body over it, and landing on the other side. Brill then cuts a reaction shot only to cut back, and we see Hubie blending in with the Halloween decorations doing the robot dance. It’s these moments where Hubie Halloween shows itself to be a movie interested in making us laugh in a variety of different ways.

Holding it all up is Adam Sandler’s goofy, kind-hearted Hubie. His Hubie voice is a riff on his Bobby Boucher from Waterboy, but it works. He’s not a coward, but he is easily scared. Remarkably, Hubie seems to have an inner life, he has dreams and desires-though they tend to be centered on Violet Valentine. 

Still, Sandler finds a perfect middle-ground for Hubie, making him fit effortlessly into a world where the supernatural doesn’t exist, but it might. Hubie Halloween is funny and, at times, borderlines on hysterical. Brill has made one of the better Adam Sandler comedies with a funny bone as big as its heart. 

Image courtesy of Netflix

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