Something Teflon this way comes
I used to shake my fists and curse the skies whenever one of Adam Sandler’s indolent Happy Madison comedies dominated the theatrical box office, so guess it’s either the diminished expectations of home viewing or a form of Stockholm Syndrome but I’ve discovered that I don’t seem to mind his Netflix movies much at all. Genial fuckarounds for the genuinely gifted Sandler and his moderately talented posse, these films felt so insulting when you had to make the actual effort to drive somewhere and hand over your hard-earned money for them, but now that they just pop up unsolicited on a menu screen I suppose there are worse ways to kill a couple of hours than the modestly amusing HUBIE HALLOWEEN.
Shot last summer in Salem, Danvers, and other North Shore towns with hilariously little attention to local geography, the film stars Sandler as Hubert Dubois, a mumblemouthed man-child who loves nothing more than celebrating Halloween. Pedaling around town in a pumpkin-colored bike helmet with a dentist’s mirror for a rearview, our fifty-something-year-old virgin is the city’s self-appointed safety monitor, reporting minor infractions and silly suspicions to the perpetually annoyed local police chief (Kevin James in a mullet wig, because why not?). The gentle, gibberish-talking Hubie is constantly pelted with eggs by little children and mercilessly mocked by members of the community he’s sworn to protect. (A meanie played by Ray Liotta gets so upset during his father’s funeral that he makes himself feel better by shoving Sandler into the open grave.)
Hubie also takes endless abuse from a dysfunctional couple played by Tim Meadows and Maya Rudolph, and the town’s teenagers taunt him to no end. The only kindness comes from Julie Bowen’s Violet Valentine, as the “Modern Family” actress returns to Sandler’s stock company for the first time since playing Virginia Venit in “Happy Gilmore” some 24! years ago. The police chief’s ex-wife, Violet’s got two daughters played by Sandler’s real-life kids, but the obvious family resemblance must be entirely coincidental since numbskull Hubie never notices that she’s throwing herself at him in every scene they share.
Strange things are afoot in Salem this Halloween, including an old classmate of Hubie’s (Rob Schneider, of course) who just escaped from a mental hospital and an avuncular new neighbor (Steve Buscemi) who might be a werewolf. There are also the expected, obligatory bit parts for “SNL” alums and other Sandler buddies like Kenan Thompson, Michael Chiklis, George Wallace, Ben Stiller, Dan Patrick, Mikey Day, Melissa Villaseñor, and Colin Quinn. (It does kind of rule how Sandler’s movies are packed with professional comedians and yet the funniest person in them is always Steve Buscemi.)
As our noodgy, wildly-disliked local laughingstock rescues the town and then briefly becomes the scapegoat for their troubles, “Hubie Halloween” flirts quite interestingly with becoming Happy Madison’s “Richard Jewell,” before settling back down into something more innocuous and good-natured. There’s an argument to be made that a lot of this script is recycled from “The Waterboy,” but it’s a much milder affair, the tone more in tune with Sandler’s mellow, middle-aged dad persona. Even the goony voice he does here is a murmur instead of a shout.
Directed by the star’s longtime cohort Steve Brill, the spirit of the piece is exemplified by an indulgent, end-credits blooper reel that runs longer than most prog-rock jams. (Totally worth it for watching Liotta blowing his lines and screaming the f-word in front of the child actors while wearing a rainbow clown wig.) Everybody here seems to be having a good time with their friends, and like most movies made for Netflix “Hubie Halloween” is probably best enjoyed in the background while you’re doing something else.•••
Over the past two decades, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.