Of course, all eyes were on this movie following Sandler’s famous promise to make the ‘worst movie ever’ following his Oscars snub for “Uncut Gems” but the joke’s on us because he never said he’d make the ‘worst movie ever’ next. And he hasn’t. What he has done is returned to the very nucleus of his comfort zone but, in these tumultuous 2020 times, who are we to begrudge (or turn our noses up) at a little bit of comfort?

Self-appointed Halloween monitor of his home town of Salem, Massachusetts is something of a local punchline. The butt of practical jokes for young and old alike, his unflappably earnest niceness seems to have won him few admirers. But when the Halloween revelry takes a turn for the genuinely sinister, Hubie might just be the only one who can save the day – and the night.

That Sandler’s work remains insanely popular and profitable is a mystery to many but it’s quite simple: he does what he does very well and his fans love him for it. There’s no doubting his talent and acting chops – you only need to look at his crossover mainstream hits and forays into more serious roles to see that but he’s also very much cut from the same cloth as Kevin Smith in that he makes the kind of movies that make him laugh. Thirteen-year-old him, mainly.

“Hubie Halloween” ranks among the better of Sandler’s self-indulgently silly oeuvre and bears all the usual hallmarks. Loveable, misunderstood man-child? Check. Unnecessary silly voice? Unfortunately check. Like “Little Nicky”, “Hubie Halloween” is a film that would be much more enjoyable if Sandler didn’t feel the need to put on a goofy voice for his character. It’s an affection that suggests a subconscious fear that he’s not quite funny enough to be the leading man of his own zanier comedies.

Of course, he is and in this one he’s joined by a cavalcade of the Sandler Repertory Company, including Steve Buscemi (of course) – who’s always fabulous in his Happy Madison cameos, Maya Rudolph, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and Shaquille O’Neal amongst a number of Sandler’s SNL buddies past and present. Ben Stiller pops by to reprise his role as Hal, , joined by fellow “Happy Gilmore” alum Julie Bowen as Hubie’s would-be love interest because if there’s one thing you can count on in a Sandler comedy: the doofus always gets the girl.

The jokes – ranging from the juvenile to the sophomoric – are are as subtle as you’d expect but everything is delivered with such a gleeful good-naturedness that you can’t really hold a grudge. Sure, it’s immature and silly and crass but it’s also warm, and sentimental and wholesome in a weird way. It almost feels like you’re watching something that used to do a brisk trade in the video rental store back in the late eighties rather than something brand new for the worst year everTM.

As ever, if Sandler and all his goofballery aren’t your cup of tea, nothing in “Hubie Halloween” will convince you. But if you can distract your inner cinaesthete long enough, it’s worth grabbing a pumpkin bucket of candy and sitting down with the family for some simple, spoopy fun.



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