Oct 23, 2020 | LIFE | By Andrew Rodden | Photo by Sidney Derzon

When you turn on an Adam Sandler movie, you’re usually in for a mediocre-at-best viewing experience. Unless it’s one of his early movies like “Happy Gilmore” (1996) or “Billy Madison” (1995), or two unironically stellar movies like Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002) or the Safdie Brothers’ “Uncut Gems” (2019), Sandler is notorious for cashing out with lazy rehashes of formulaic comedy. His Happy Madison Productions films are frequently criticized for being highly commercialized with tedious product placement (think “Jack and Jill” from 2011), and are often just an excuse to give Sandler, his family, and his friends a free vacation. 

The latest film from Sandler’s production company, “Hubie Halloween,” delightfully breaks the Happy Madison tradition of selling out, lacking the cynicism we usually get from Adam Sandler movies. Steven Brill directed the movie and seemed to facilitate a loose but effective atmosphere on set, as everyone on screen, and probably behind the camera, seemed to be having a blast. The result is an earnest and authentic movie that shines in our current cloud of 2020 despair.

Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, a proud resident of Salem, Mass., who acts as the official “Halloween Helper” during the town’s Halloween festivities. Bullied for his eccentricities — one of which is a goofy Sandler voice reminiscent of his “Waterboy” (1998) performance — Hubie must block out his haters (Ray Liotta, Tim Meadows, and Maya Rudolph play Hubie’s biggest foes) in order to solve a series of mysterious disappearances. 

Adam Sandler has a knack for stacking his movies with an all-star cast, and “Hubie Halloween” is no different. Julie Bowen returns as another Sandler love interest, Kevin James plays a town sheriff past his due, and June Squibb plays Hubie’s naïve but well-intentioned mother.

Now let me be clear: this movie is hardly revolutionary or innovative. It’s a comedy with the bare-bones plot of “an unpredictable patient escapes a psychiatric institute on Halloween night, and the main character must save the day.” But the simplicity is essential, allowing plenty of room for the personalities of Sandler and friends to provide both wholesome and raunchy — at least, raunchy to the extent of the PG-13 rating — content. This is likely due in part to each actor enjoying their time on set, which is obvious considering the effort clearly put into the material.

I found myself laughing throughout, both at the actually successful jokes and at the audacity of a few complete whiffs. “Hubie Halloween” has some jokes that absolutely do not work. But it also has a few that absolutely do! Steve Buscemi running around as a werewolf, pooping in his basement? Comedy gold, if you ask me. 

“Hubie Halloween” is an Adam Sandler movie in its purest form, and who knew it would be one of the more pleasant movies of the year. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but it succeeds at its goal to provide an evening of entertainment, which, let’s face it, is something we all need nowadays. So, don’t think too hard about why characters do certain things or why certain plot points make zero sense —  just enjoy the jokes and the laughs. You can watch “Hubie Halloween” on Netflix.  

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