Sandler’s Back… to Making Comedies.
Last year, Adam Sandler starred in one of the best movies of 2019, Uncut Gems, which easily made it onto my personal Best Films of 2019 list. During my written thoughts on the subject, I declared my hope for Uncut Gems to be the official turn in Sandler’s career; to have him grow as an entertainer and not simply make lazy schlock comedies as an excuse for him and his pals to take a vacation with a big budget. Sadly, I don’t think that hopeful turn is what happened. At all.
Hubie Halloween, is not only Sandler’s return to comedy, but also a return to making unfunny comedy. Lazy comedy that relies heavily on cheap sight gags, sh*t, piss, farts, and Sandler mumbling in yet another stupid “silly” voice that never musters a hollow snicker… let alone a laugh. In a total hour and forty minute long sit with this God damn movie, I sat there mostly silent as I watched failed joke after failed joke. Thinking to myself, “Wow. I really don’t like this. Yet, why don’t I hate this?” Wondering why I wasn’t angrier at the movie as I had been in the past with so many of Adam Sandler’s other comedies that pissed me off. Instead of wondering why, how about we look a little deeper?
A Classic Plot
Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler) is a figure of mockery when it comes to all the townspeople of Salem, even though Hubie makes a constant effort to be a benefit to the town in his volunteer work. Then comes the night of Halloween where something nefarious is going down, involving an escaped crazed lunatic and citizens gone missing. Now it’s up to Hubie to figure out exactly what’s going on before it’s too late.
Sandler Phoning It in Again
Let’s get straight into what the heart of the problem is here, that being Sandler himself. Which honestly breaks my heart a bit to say because this dude seems like a genuinely decent and cool guy who can be really funny. The man has talent and he’s shown it plenty of times before, yet for whatever reason, he decided to take it easy as a performer; crafting characters only out of goofy voices or centering easy-to-tell, clichéd stories that are only flimsy excuses to go on vacation. This crap-tastic formula of his, more or less, has been plaguing his productions for the last ten years now at minimum.
Another Voice We've All Already Heard
Back at things again with another absurd voice of his own making, which actually isn’t even a new voice as it might as well just be Sandler playing the Waterboy again. And it’s not funny. He’s not saying anything funny, he doesn’t do anything funny, he just mumbles through the majority of his lines then needlessly screams at the top of his lungs like an idiot for the remainder. There’s nothing to this character, he’s yet another mentally challenged lad with a heart of gold whose obnoxious behavior is supposedly “funny” and “endearing”? It’s not. It’s not funny. It’s not endearing. It’s annoying. Very. F*ckin’. Annoying. Sh*tty behavior from Hubie such as throwing dirt at the grieving people conducting a funeral for a lost loved one isn’t remotely funny or likable, neither is this middle-aged man hiding in the dark waiting for kids to so happen to take more than one piece of candy from a random house with a sign asking otherwise, just so he can give them a speech about the “honor system.” F*ck this f*ckin’ asshole!
The “doofy yet lovable” character trope with Sandler has grown so tired; there’s nothing inspired in the performance as it seems he can’t bring anything new or different to the table to the “idiot hero” role anymore. It feels as though Sandler doesn’t even play these moronic roles because he likes it, more as though because it’s just easy. Of course, it’s easy, all he has to do is show up on set, mumble through a take without laughing while uttering the dumbest thing to come into his mind. Bam! Easy paycheck. Why though? Why keep going with the same ol’ pony trick? It can’t be for the money, he’s already made a sh*t ton of money off of the act. So why go on with the same schtick? Why not do something different? Yes, Uncut Gems is obviously different. I mean strictly in terms of his Happy Madison comedic productions. Why can’t he innovate a little, teeny tiny bit to maybe make something different out of his dumbass characters?
Because of this lacking ambition or sh*ts given to try making something funny out of nothing, the movie drags into an unbearable dead zone of humor pretty much the whole time Hubie is on screen. Besides Hubie’s inability to speak properly, there is one added trait of the character; that being that he is literally afraid of everything, resulting in a blood-curdling scream any and every time he thinks himself in danger. Although this “new” characteristic is inconsistent, to say the least, as he’s terrified beyond belief at anyone who makes a sudden loud noise, yet doesn’t blink an eye when someone is tied up in a cornfield or weapons are being thrown at him in the street… because sure.
Would Be Better Off a Cartoon
I’ve noticed a reoccurring trend with Happy Madison flicks where they get so close to crossing over into such an absurdity that it’s almost a cartoon, yet for whatever reason are too afraid to actually cross that line. In my opinion, it’d be all the better for it. Please, I implore these filmmakers to make be the wacky cartoon that they clearly want to make. Stop holding back, take a step out of attempting to establish plausibility within the realms of reality and just go the full Looney Tunes. Because this tactic of only going halfway, this meeting in the middle to appease a grounded tone along with a crazy one doesn’t work. It’s as though the movie is at war with itself and can’t just be what it wants to be.
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The only way I can explain the tonal conflicts is if Mel Brooks were to make Blazing Saddles as a legitimate period piece, taking out all the satire and humor revealing its self-aware tone yet keeping in the more juvenile humor like the fart jokes while every character was written as either the Slim Pickens or Harvey Korman roles; either everyone plays an utter idiot or an asshole or both with no in-between. Resulting in no relatable characters who are trapped inside a world following too many real-world laws to be taken as a joke, yet too childish in its antics to be taken seriously either. The filmmakers at Happy Madison need to finally pick a side; whether it be a realistic tone with grounded comedy or over-the-top, shenanigans-filled cartoon, doing both has so far supplied zero laughs to be had.
Another line that Hubie Halloween specifically yearns crossing is to be a smidge darker than what these writers and producers seem comfortable with. As the movie goes on in the second half with the kidnapping of random citizens, there are some possible villains introduced which could have led to some fun or dark avenues to explore… it doesn’t. Spoiler alert, in case any reader hasn’t seen the movie yet. Throughout the flick there are a couple of red herrings in the guise of Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider; Buscemi’s character under the impression that he’s cursed as a werewolf and Schneider being eluded to as a Michael Myers-esque murderous psychopath on the loose in the sleepy town of Salem. Neither turn out to be the case, which was honestly disappointing as that could have been a darkly fun angle to run with for either idea. But no, Buscemi is just a quirky dude who escaped from a mental hospital and Schneider turned out to be his friend from the hospital who also escaped in order to bring him back. Although I will say that the payoff with these two characters at the end was surprisingly a little funny.
Who turns out to be the real culprit of the town’s kidnappings was Hubie’s mother all along, played by June Squibb… because I can totally believe that this 90-year-old woman is capable of projectile throwing full-grown men and women while vanishing without a trace… sure. Another example of toying with the lines of being a cartoon, yet too afraid to truly commit. Anyways, by the time the climax hits, there’s a rather dark turn with the mother that the movie is so close to making yet chickens out the very last second. She has tied up her victims to wooden stakes in the backyard and plans to set them all on fire as an act of vengeance for treating her son, Hubie, so terribly. Obviously, though, the movie doesn’t have the balls to go through with it and Hubie saves them from certain death.
In my head though, I was thinking, “Wow, I know they won’t burn people alive in this movie, but if they did I would have so much respect for these writers.” Why? Because at least then the writers took one risk. And now I don’t because these filmmakers are too chicken sh*t to go through with such a dark twist. Yes, I understand that if filmmakers aren’t comfortable with that form of onscreen violence then they shouldn’t feel forced to do it. At the same time though, don’t tease the idea if you aren’t going to have the balls to do something with it. Instead, it becomes a pointless device that contributes d*ck all! Playing the story as safe as possible, even though the movie constantly wants to be more zany and dark. Grow some balls and let go of all inhibitions for once! Do us all a favor and give your film some f*cking teeth. Give us a real Wolfman, there’s no reason why a movie like this can’t! Bring on the crazy serial killer and do some goofy stuff with him! Let Hubie’s mom go full-blown nuts and burn mother-f*ckers like witches in the early days of Salem! Just let go and have fun with the endless possibilities awaiting at your fingertips. Instead of providing shallow excuses to give Schneider, Buscemi, and Squibb some cameos while doing nothing really with them.
As with many of the Happy Madison lineup, there’s some flimsy moral to the story with lessons learned. However, this time around, the moral is not for our hero to learn, but for everyone else around him. Which, fine, I can get behind this unorthodox character arc angle where the protagonist doesn’t really have a lesson to learn while everyone else needs to admit their own faults and are portrayed as being in the wrong. In this particular case, the lesson for everyone to learn is supposedly that they need to treat Hubie better and they treat him so badly because they’re actually jealous of him… Here’s the problem with this concept being utilized in this movie though… Hubie is an obnoxious jackass with an IQ lower than my shoe size while getting into everyone else’s business without anyone’s consent. People are constantly asking him to leave them alone or stay out of their personal business because it literally has nothing to with Hubie. Ever!
Yes, occasionally, Hubie will perform an act of kindness in which the town’s folk will still be needlessly unappreciative of said decent deeds. Although after seeing all the obnoxiously dumb antics of Hubie spying on people, forcing them to listen to longwinded and incoherent speeches, disrupting funerals to throw dirt at the grievers, constantly yelling and screaming like an idiot about every little thing, puking all over the street randomly, crashing his bicycle into cars because he’s not paying attention, badgering the police about nonsense all the time as false claims of an emergency, barging into teenage parties just to stick his nose in a place it doesn’t belong yet again. Hubie is the pestering asshole in town who everyone begs to piss off while he refuses to take the hint because he believes his actions are protecting everyone when in reality he’s just annoying.
Then the fact that the movie tries to make it out as the kidnapped victim’s fault for treating Hubie so poorly, even though Hubie is clearly the individual who eggs on most of these toxic behaviors. Maybe if he wasn’t always digging into the whole town’s personal lives they wouldn’t have such a problem with the guy. But no, according to the film they’re all wrong and Hubie is in the right for being a nosy dumbass.
So With All the Things I Hate… Why Don’t I Hate the Movie?
Well… when we look beyond all the cheap sight gags like piss-stained sheets being called a “ghost costume” or Kevin James wearing an obvious bad mullet wig… when we ignore Sandler talking like a mumbling buffoon and Shaq making out with a woman with a BLT between their mouths… there are a few redeeming factors about the movie, believe it or not.
One of the few elements that I curiously found entertainment, as well as finding a genuine laugh or two, was from the aspect of seeing just how truly this entire town loathes Hubie and the lengths they go to when trying to be rid of him. At first, it was as trivial as throwing eggs at Hubie as he rode his bike down the street. Then things began to escalate a tad further as the citizens began throwing shoes and watermelons… then hatchets… cinderblocks… flaming spears. Becoming more and more apparent that these people not only want to mess with Hubie or even simply hurt him. No, no, no. Salem is legitimately trying to kill this man… and honestly… that is the most amusing part about this whole movie. Watching as all these people at their wits end finally having enough of the Sandler bull sh*t antics in their town and they have decreed to end this dumbass’s life immediately. That, to me, is the funniest f*cking thing I found out of this mostly lifeless experience. This is actually a running gag throughout the movie as Sandler is so used to dodging all these weapons being chucked at his head. Thank God for one funny joke here.
Another strange trend of Adam Sandler movies is the celebrity cameos/iconic actors in supporting roles; Al Pacino in Jack & Jill, James Caan in That’s My Boy, Ozzy Osbourne in Little Nicky, Jack Nicholson in Anger Management, Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard, etc. Now we add Ray Liotta to the list, specifically a member of the famous movie gangsters who join Sandler’s crew randomly. Liotta, while deserving better, still makes the most of his time here and is easily ten times funnier than the prototypical Happy Madison crap going on with Sandler.
Why, might someone ask, is Ray Liotta maintaining at least some form of decent humor? Because Liotta’s character is so ridiculously determined to make Hubie’s life miserable that it’s beyond any logical reason. To the point where Liotta, at his own father’s funeral, pushes Hubie into his father’s grave just for a laugh! That is the degree of how bonkers this dude gets and it’s surprisingly funny. Also the bit where Hubie says “Excuse me, I’m not dead” as a gravedigger is burying Hubie, resulting in the gravedigger instantly dying of a heart attack and falling onto Hubie in the grave actually made me laugh too. After striking out with a girl, Liotta immediately sees Hubie and says, “Just because I struck out with you, I’m going to take it out on Hubie!” Running into an carnival haunted house just to scare him because he couldn’t get laid. I know it’s stupid, but it’s funny in its stupidity so it gets a free pass in my book.
Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?
Throughout the movie, Sandler’s character is carrying around a thermos. Now, I wouldn’t say that Hubie’s thermos is “laugh out loud” funny, however the extent of the thermos’s capabilities did charm me… Sort of. Because as it turns out, this is no ordinary thermos, but a device of Hubie’s design where it might as well be one of Batman’s gadgets; grappling hook, drink blender, spyglass, hair dryer, vacuum, shovel, blow horn, flare gun, and it’s even a thermos! Again, I don’t think I ever really laughed at any of its wild and limitless abilities. Although I did snicker when Hubie says that with all the ludicrous things he built into the thermos that he was surprised how he didn’t include a compass. That was okay.
For the Love of Halloween
Most of the Happy Madison productions, visually speaking, look like generic crappy modern comedies… which, most of them are. Off the top of my head, Hubie Halloween is the only movie under this studio that actually tries for a stylish aesthetic. Not only does the cinematography look decent, but it elicits the spirit of Halloween for the majority of its runtime; the biggest and brightest full moon possibly ever seen on screen, Halloween décor and costumes seen in every frame, Autumn colors covering the town, fog drenched atmosphere, showing so much love to All Hollow’s Eve through the narrative and characters admiration for its traditions. Say what one will about the quality of the film as a whole, but as a Halloween movie just having fun with being set during Halloween, the movie succeeds.
Hubie Halloween mostly sucks; Sandler gives a tired performance he already gave over twenty years ago, the humor mainly is designed around cheap sight gags and juvenile gross-out moments that never amount to any laughs, the tone and story feel restricted from ever going too over-the-top cartoonish or dark which feels lame… the biggest problem though is that it’s just not funny. However, there are the rare and few bright spots such as the running gag of the townspeople trying to kill Hubie and Ray Liotta dedicates himself fully to the idea of being an asshole that it does garner a chuckle sometimes. Also, there was one sight gag that made me laugh slightly with the idea of every Newswoman reporting on Salem’s local station being dressed up as Harley Quinn, nothing brilliant, but hey! If it’s funny in a Happy Madison movie, praise the f*ck out of it because it doesn’t happen too often!!
Anyways, I wouldn’t ever say that Hubie Halloween is necessarily worth anyone’s precious time on this Earth to go out of their way to watch. That being said, if someone is desperate for a movie which isn’t high art, but will give some fun Halloween visuals for a little eye candy then this is mostly fine for a background movie to have on while one’s attention is fixated elsewhere. High praise or an overwhelming recommendation? Lord, no! It’s the best I got here though. Sorry. Until next time… I’m going to go watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch every day until Halloween is finally here… Eighteen more days ‘til Halloween… Silver Shamrock!
That’s All Folks…
Hubie Halloween… Are you happy to see Sandler is back to comedies? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Excited for Halloween this year at all? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a frightfully good day!
© 2020 John Plocar
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on October 17, 2020:
I'm with you on this one. I really can't stand him doing the same "goofy" roles in his comedies, and if he's not doing the moron character then he's playing a jerk with anger issues instead. It's gotten old and I just want to see Sandler finally freaking grow up a little or something!
I think Pixels was the last one of his comedies I saw and have been avoiding his Netflix ventures he's been doing after that. Hubie Halloween was my first time back to his comedies, outside of the Hotel Transylvania flicks, and I did not enjoy my visit at all haha
Sam Shepards from Europe on October 17, 2020:
On a more serious note, I liked punch drunk, reign over me,... haven't seen uncut gems yet. In general, I don't like him playing a 6-8-year-old with a weird voice or pee humor. The last comedy I've seen of him was "just go with it".
Sam Shepards from Europe on October 17, 2020:
My favorite Sandler movie is the one where he uses the word p*nis. Or was it balls, not sure anymore?
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on October 14, 2020:
I actually didn't get around to watching Murder Mystery, so I might try checking that one out. If you haven't seen Knives Out yet, I totally recommend it for anyone who's a fan of the 'whodunit' genre!
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on October 14, 2020:
I completely agree with you 100%
I too truly wish that he would just take more risks as an actor like he does with Punch-Drunk Love and Uncut Gems. He can be a truly talented dude, but he refuses to movie on from the stupid schtick that is so easy to make. Especially with Netflix now.
Nuzhat Tabassum from Bangladesh on October 14, 2020:
I kind of liked the movie Murder Mystery. I think it was quite different from all other Adam Sandler movies. Also I am a huge fan of 'whodunit' genre so yeah...
Thank you for the review.
Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on October 14, 2020:
I think Sandler tried harder to break from his schtick when he did movies like Punch-Drunk Love, 50 First Dates, and Spanglish. I wish he'd try to find more films like these, as well as Uncut Gems and The Meyerowitz Stories. I wasn't fond of his goofy guy persona even back in the day - and especially in The Waterboy. I have reached the point where I've lost interest in any of the "classic" Sandler persona. That may pay his bills, but I'm not contributing to his salary when he does.