During 2019’s whirlwind Oscar campaign for Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler jokingly promised if he wasn’t nominated he would come back and deliver his worst movie ever. Hubie Halloween doesn’t come close to the worst of Happy Madison Productions, but it’s decidedly in sync with nearly every Sandler comedy of the last ten years: a goofy, unfunny extended sketch full of what feel like deleted, unwanted scenes from better films. That’s how deep the hole has been dug since Sandler’s heyday of Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy. In fact, the best parts of Hubie are callbacks to those very same movies. It’s as if Sandler is acknowledging he’ll never top his funny business of the 90’s, the random and ribald nature of his comedy then only coming across as ridiculous or desperate now. Still, the oldies are still goodies as certain in-jokes, cameos, and off-color nods endear you to Hubie in record time. They’re like shortcuts for a comedy. If you can’t make ’em laugh, remind them of a joke or joker who did one time long ago and watch as nostalgia takes care of the rest. Stories set during Halloween are a perfect set-up for fuzzy feelings about the days of trick ‘r treating yore. Amber leaves and candlelit pumpkins remind us of the comfort of childhood. Small-town celebrations, with parades and costume parties and classic music, remind Millennials like me of a Halloween we sorely miss, and I’m certain the aching will only worsen in 2020. Hubie Halloween is good for such fuzziness, however brief, and for the expected, assorted appearances (Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider) you wait for in every Happy Madison effort. Just don’t expect any sudden resurgence in Sandler’s comic game on the heels of Gems. To some extent the Sandman has kept his promise.
P.S. June Squibb phones it in as Grandma and I don’t mind it one bit. It’s good to see her so active this year.