“If I don’t get [an Oscar nomination for ‘Uncut Gems,’], I’m going to f---ing come back and do [a movie] so bad on purpose just to make you all pay. That’s how I get them.” — Adam Sandler on “The Howard Stern Show” in 2019.
Thanks a lot, Motion Picture Academy.
Actually, Adam Sandler’s “Hubie Halloween” was filmed in the summer of 2019, before he jokingly vowed to get his revenge on us by releasing a steaming pile of cinematic … stuff. But Sandler is nothing if not self-aware — and he surely knew this mildly offensive, juvenile celebration of cheap scares, slapstick gags and bodily function “jokes” was sure to land near the bottom of the large pile of terrible movies starring Sandler, alongside the likes of “That’s My Boy,” “The Do-Over,” “Little Nicky,” “Jack and Jill” and let’s stop there because if we keep going we won’t have any room for the review.
If you thought these more enlightened times would give Sandler pause before trying to wring laughs out of playing a grown man who speaks in a cartoonishly weird voice, seems to be mentally and socially challenged, pedals around town on a bicycle with a portable radio attached to the handlebars, is the subject of ridicule from adults and children alike, and shows up at Halloween class assembly with a ghost costume that consists of a urine-stained sheet — you thought wrong. Sandler’s Hubert “Hubie” Dubois is what they used to call the Village Idiot, and in this case the village is Salem, Massachusetts, and yep, it’s Halloween, so we’re going to get all kinds of humor based on horror movie staples, from reports of an infamous killer escaping the mental institution to the creepy old neighbor who just might be a werewolf to the mysterious disappearances of a number of townsfolk. All of a sudden, “town safety volunteer” Hubie just might have to spring into action and go from Town Zero to Town Hero!
Sandler regulars such as Ben Stiller, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Colin Quinn and Rob Schneider make appearances and gamely try to eek a laugh or two out of their sketch-comedy-level roles. Even Julie Bowen, who was Sandler’s love interest in “Happy Gilmore” in 1996, returns as Hubie’s lifelong crush, one Violet Valentine. The 90-year-old June Squibb plays Hubie’s mom (of course, he still lives at home), who treats Hubie like the man-child he is and wears T-shirts with slogans such as “BONER DONOR” and “KAYAKING GETS ME WET,” and that’s about as sophisticated as the humor gets here, folks. As a steady parade of talents from Ray Liotta to Maya Rudolph, from Melissa Villasenor to Michael Chiklis, wander in and out, one can’t help but think: wouldn’t it have been something if this group had found an actual script and actual movie to do together?
The argument about whether Sandler is terrible or talented has long been settled. The answer is both. He really should have been nominated for an Academy Award for “Uncut Gems”; it was one of the finest performances of the year in one of the best movies of 2019. The only things “Hubie Halloween” has in common with that movie is they star Adam Sandler, they were filmed in color and they’re both in focus.