“Hubie Halloween” benefits from all the frills of a well-funded movie — a reputed, extensive celebrity cast, a holiday season prime-time release and top-notch production value. Unfortunately, it fails to thrill despite these potent ingredients, leaving audiences a confused jigsaw puzzle with one too many pieces and not enough room.
“Hubie Halloween” revolves around town outcast Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler), who excitedly gears up for Halloween in the historically rich and spooky town of Salem. However, when a suspicious individual moves in next door at this eerie moment in time, Hubie’s detective senses are awakened and he embarks on an investigative mission at the ridicule of the entire town.
Released just in time for the holiday season, the film did manage to preempt the annual slew of Halloween horror flicks, allowing “Hubie Halloween” to top Netflix’s No. 1 position for nine consecutive days. The movie’s streaming success may be more of a testament to Sandler’s and the rest of the cast’s cult following than a guarantor of its narrative or spectacle quality.
The film acts as yet another addition to Sandler’s extensive repertoire of arguably dispensable comedies. Despite Hubie’s naively desperate attempts to look out for his neighbors, he is constantly bullied in return — and his slightly unintelligible accent, chronic clumsiness and caricaturish mannerisms only make matters worse. This subgenre of humor relies on Sandler’s willingness to play unflattering characters who, despite their seemingly endless series of quirks, seem to invariably win at the end of the film.
It is unsurprising to see the unidimensionality with which the rest of the characters are portrayed. The film employs every exaggerated character trope in the comedy book: an alienated outcast who lives with his mother, a pair of comedically incompetent and paunch-bearing cops, Machiavellian yet unintelligent kids and, of course, a saintly love interest with zero flaws. Even the passionate moments, most notably the speech in Hubie’s favor that his mother delivers at the end, feel computer-generated. This formulaic sameness seems to strip away all originality of humor or narrative, producing a film that feels vaguely familiar and not nearly nostalgic or heartwarming enough.
If the jokes worked, it would be a comforting, don’t-think-too-much-of-it watch. In an entirely predictable conclusion, Hubie wins the girl and the fight against the bad guys; he is almost instantly accepted by everyone and magically crowned mayor. Admittedly, this fairy-tale ending is part of the heartwarming, yet absolutely ludicrous, campiness. The film attempts to end on a clear and simple moral: love thy neighbors as thyself, which seems apt for the small town setting.
Still, the multiple parallel plotlines feel confusing more than exhilarating. The convergence of an apparent werewolf and an escaped convict from a mental hospital feel random and excessive — plainly existing to conceal the real antagonist.
The repetitive gags are both a curse and a blessing. After the first 15 minutes, the countless items and insults thrown at Hubie begin to lose their fleetingly comedic sheen, ceasing to be surprising or funny anymore. Perhaps the most original bit is his all-purpose thermos — complete with a hairdryer, vacuum, telescope and even a blender — which introduces novelty into the otherwise predictable story.
Overall, it seems like director Steven Brill had one goal in mind with “Hubie Halloween”: to create a campy, classic Halloween flick, no matter how formulaic. The addition of celebrity cameos are undeniably exciting, offering the viewer incentive to power through just to catch a few glimpses of a stray Ben Stiller or Disney star China Anne McClain. There is also something to be appreciated about the excessiveness of Halloween decor, a clever marker of the idiosyncrasies of a small town with not much else to do.
But for the most part, “Hubie Halloween” fails to accomplish any narratorial feats and is likely to disappoint audiences looking for a fresh and spooky film for the holiday season. It’ll pass as a somewhat kitschy, Halloween-themed feature — but only if one doesn’t look too closely.