When Adam Sandler was in the midst of his press tour for Uncut Gems, he made a promise on The Howard Stern Show that was, really, more of a threat: If he didn’t get an Oscar for his excellent lead performance, he would make a movie that was “so bad on purpose.” Totally unrelated to that interview, here’s a moment from the opening minutes of Sandler’s new Netflix movie, Hubie Halloween:
Now, an amateur sleuth could make the case that Hubie Halloween is the punishment Sandler wrought on the Academy for not only depriving the Sandman of an Oscar, but even a nomination. (Uncut Gems, overall, was completely shut out at the Oscars; at least Parasite won Best Picture.) But the timeline doesn’t track: Hubie Halloween had already begun principal photography prior to Uncut Gems’ arrival in theaters or the announcement of the Oscar nominations. As much as I want to believe that Sandler projectile vomiting after shaking together three eggs in his thermos like a smoothie was a sly commentary on his being snubbed for his finest dramatic work since Punch-Drunk Love, Hubie Halloween is merely the movie Sandler was going to make for Netflix anyway.
Sandler and the streamer’s relationship has proved to be mutually beneficial. After signing the comedian to a four-picture deal in 2014, Netflix boasted how many users have viewed the Sandler-led comedies (The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, Sandy Wexler, and The Week Of). While the streamer’s in-house metrics should always be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, the fact Netflix re-upped with Sandler for another four-picture deal—Hubie Halloween being one of those projects—is enough proof that he’s been good business for them. As for Sandler, well, he gets to make critic-proof movies starring all of his best buddies—Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, etc.—while getting paid a ton of money. It is, as perfectly coined by my colleague Rob Harvilla, Sandler’s DGAF Phase. This is how he wins.
You can count yourself a winner as well, if the juvenile humor of Hubie Halloween is what you’re craving. This is a movie where 90-year-old Oscar-nominated actress June Squibb, who plays Sandler’s mother, wears novelty T-shirts that say things like “Boner Donor” and “Kayaking Gets Me Wet.” This is a movie where Ray Liotta wears a clown wig on Halloween, tries and fails to flirt with a younger woman, and tells everyone he’s got self-esteem issues because he knows that he’s stupid. This is a movie where Steve Buscemi, who is convinced that he’s a werewolf, escapes from a psych ward. This is a movie where the orderly who finds out Possible Werewolf Steve Buscemi has escaped is Ben Stiller. (Stiller’s orderly appears to confirm that Hubie Halloween exists in the Happy Gilmore Cinematic Universe.)
Here’s June Squibb in one of those novelty T-shirts because, I have to admit, the bit is kind of hilarious:
What else can I really say about Hubie Halloween? It’s as critic-proof as the rest of the Sandler-Netflix catalog, and your mileage will vary depending on how amused you are by the film’s many sight gags. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of the Sandler comedy appreciation spectrum: Whereas some people swear by every one of his silly movies and others hate them all on principle, I don’t mind looking at them on a case-by-case basis. Jack and Jill, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and the Grown Ups franchise are abominations; Mr. Deeds, Click, and 50 First Dates should get Criterion releases.
But based on the low bar set by Sandler’s phoned-in Netflix phase—not judging, who wouldn’t do the same in his shoes?—Hubie Halloween has its charming moments. The premise, that Hubie Dubois (Sandler), a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, who always looks out for his fellow citizens around his favorite holiday, Halloween, is bizarre, but in an unapologetically earnest way. He’s bullied and ignored by virtually all the townsfolk, but doesn’t let it affect his upbeat demeanor, love of Halloween, or his affinity for carrying around soup is in what is, effectively, a magical thermos. (Throughout the film, we discover that the thermos also functions as a grappling hook, a screwdriver, a flashlight, and anything else Hubie requires. It’s arguably as powerful as Captain America’s shield.)
Hubie is sort of like Ted Lasso: He’s corny, but through sheer force of will, his kindness wins you over. (When he isn’t projectile vomiting a cocktail of soup and eggs.) The town, eventually, warms up to Hubie too—especially when he’s integral to solving the half-baked mystery of citizens disappearing on Halloween night, which might have something to do with the psych ward escapee. What Hubie Halloween lacks in the laughs of an upper-tier Sandler comedy, it more than makes up for with good vibes. It’s contagious. Want to see Hubie use soup to stop some townsfolk from being set on fire in a halfhearted reenactment of the Salem witch trials? Of course you do:
Inaccurate timeline aside, the movie doesn’t feel “so bad on purpose.” Hubie Halloween is by no means good, but Sandler’s hardly scraping the bottom of his barrel. It remains absolutely shameful that he didn’t even get an Oscar nomination for Uncut Gems—the Sandman legit deserves an Oscar!—and I for one welcome Sandler sticking to his word by punishing the Academy with something absolutely terrible on Netflix’s dime. Maybe it’ll happen some day. But in the meantime, if you want a harbinger of what that might look like, just watch The Ridiculous 6.