Tag Archives: kenan thompson

Hubie Halloween (2020) is just about more treat than trick.

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.

6/10

Go figure: Playmobil: The Movie (2019) toys with some good ideas but they don’t play out.

To paraphrase The Lego Batman Movie: Death…all great children’s stories start with death, or seem to. In the case of The Playmobil Movie, it’s the parents on the chopping block as they’re offed (offscreen) within the first ten minutes to clear the way for Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her younger brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) to have their magical adventure in the world of Playmobil.

It’s a likeable enough caper which dispenses with the surprise twist of “The Lego Movie” by making it explicit upfront that we’re dealing with real people. In a way, it’s a much more old-fashioned approach to the idea because The Playmobil World is entirely magical and real (unto itself) although why Charlie and Marla are transported to it is never actually explained apart from the chance to learn a heartwarming lesson and make some friends along the way.

What follows is a perfectly pleasant but unsatisfyingly perfunctory adventure story that takes us on a whirlwind tour of the various worlds of Playmobil (available at your local toy store now) and in that sense, it’s as much an extended commercial for the perhaps lesser-known-than-Lego toy range even if it does often highlight the toy’s shortcomings (such as their lack of articulation) for gags.

It’s colourful and amusing enough to keep the kids occupied and some of the voice cast are good value, especially Daniel Radcliffe as suave superspy Rex Dasher but where it falls down is in its attempts to be a musical adventure. The songs are…not good, in fact their only redeeming feature is they’re so instantly forgettable they don’t hang around to stink up the place one the last note fades.

5/10 

Wonder Park (2019) will have you wondering where you parked and whether anyone will notice if you nip back to the car.

“Wonder Park” isn’t short of ambition but all it really ends up proving is that what Pixar do isn’t anywhere near as easy as it looks.

When June’s mum falls ill, it seems to spell the end of their imagined theme park, a model of which has taken over their house but when June suddenly finds herself transported into the park, she must find a way to restore the park to its former glory and save her animal friends Gus, Cooper, Greta, Steve, Boomer and Peanut from ‘the Darkness’.

Evidently created in a writer’s room where they put forward the philosophy of ‘there are no bad ideas’ and really mean it, “Wonder Park” riffs on “Final Destination 3”, “Jurassic World”, “Neverending Story”, “The Jungle Book” and even “Pacific Rim” as it leaps from one idea to the next in it eagerness to overcome its wildly uneven tone and pacing issues. Its attempts to blend the pathos of the real-life illness storyline with the fantasy wonder of the imaginary – or is it – theme park is clumsy at best and downright jarring at worst. In fact, more than anything it feels like an eighties throwback where they’d take a foreign animated tv series and haphazardly cut it together into a feature-length…something? It’s nice, though, to hear Tom Baker playing more than just a cameo (UK viewers only).

It’s cute and colourful and younger children might find it undemandingly diverting but anyone looking for it to make a lick of sense, even within its own world, will be left looking for the park’s fast track – to the exit.

4/10

Illumination’s sweet adaptation of The Grinch (2018) opts not to shrink the title character’s heart the whole three sizes.

Prematurely Christmassy – and I don’t mean that in a Grinchy way – Illumination’s take on “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” is as warm and sweet and comforting as a hot mug of cocoa that’s mostly marshmallow. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely feels like this is a movie that will find its real home on home video next Christmas rather than unceremoniously dumped in early November where it’s left looking longingly at the distant, cosily festive light of December, much the same way its title character regards the town of Whoville from afar.

As the bustling, happy town of Whoville busies itself preparing for Christmas, The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is preparing for his own tradition: a holiday hibernation, shut away from all the jollity. But when he realises he’s already eaten all of his food and needs to visit Whoville for supplies, he’s finds he has to face the festivities after all. But the goodwill and peace on earth prove too much and so The Grinch hatches a plan: to steal Christmas.

The film is supported by a short starring Illumination’s brand mascots The Minions but its so basic it serves mainly to put you in a suitably Grinchy mood before the main feature begins. Dr Seuss’ original work is actually quite brief and short on side plots and additional details so this animated offering – like the 2000 live-action movie – finds ways to embellish and expand the story. Both offer an insight into The Grinch’s childhood loneliness to provide some motive for his Christmas cantankery, but this animated offering also adds in a side plot involving a rotund comedy reindeer called Fred and opts to give Cindy Loo-Who (Cameron Seely) much more agency than before, giving her a parallel plot of trying to make a Christmas wish for her mother come true.

A big difference here is that this incarnation of The Grinch is immediately more sympathetic than any we’ve seen before. His mean-spiritedness is clearly conflicted, with numerous indications that he’s not the mean and nasty creature of previous versions. His dog Max, for example, is clearly loved and loves The Grinch in return and while he’s not the kindest of friends, The Grinch has friends in Whoville and he’s not the ostracised ne’er-do-well of other adaptations.

It’s exactly what you would expect, though, from Illumination, whose family-friendly animated offerings often skew young and cutesy and when it comes to that target audience, this film plays like gangbusters. Not to say there’s not enough here to keep Mums and Dads happy too, with enough amusing set pieces and appealing animation to keep you from being bored. Besides the original book, it’s probably my favourite interpretation of the story thanks to an amiable performance from Benedict Cumberbatch and the warm and fuzzy (in a good way) animation.

6/10