God knows under our current Covid circumstances that any opportunity for Mom and/or Dad and/or the kids to huddle together and watch something should be applauded. I am glad, to the bottom of my black little heart, that some people this past weekend seem to have just squeezed out a good time from the latest Netflix movie that Adam Sandler just squeezed out, Hubie Halloween. I am not against fun.
But I am against anything that aims so low. The “thing” that this lazy exercise aspires to be is a holiday movie that is longer than 90 minutes and has Adam Sandler in it. The cinematographer, art director, costume designer, editor, and composer seem to be working on a labor of love... and a completely different film. Hubie Halloween looks great and gets the suburbs right: the way night looks when everyone’s front lawns are decorated, the way it looks at the drive-in when some idiot turns on their lights too early, and what trick or treating looks like to young kids. The costumes and set decorations are detailed and fun. The score is playful and fun. This film captures the look and sound of Halloween. Bravo.
What if the character of Hubie Dubois were just a regular guy who just took Halloween a little too seriously? That would at least leave the Julie Bowen character a little dignity because she is in love with the guy! Would that rob this movie of laughs? I think not. It’s just that between Sandler’s well-intentioned-but long-past-its-shelf-date performance and thin script, it’s ironic to think that it was Sandler’s participation that sold this project to Netflix in the first place.
FULL DISCLOSURE: There was a moment when the script was clever and actually tricked me. Just when I was beginning to complain that the Steve Buscemi character seemed to transform into a werewolf multiple times in a single night, Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy’s script came flying through my screening room window and whapped me on the head. “Oh, I get it!” I finally exclaimed as the script itself provided a justification for this seeming flaw.
AN ANNOYING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PAUSE: It was great to see Julie Bowen on screen again because she figures prominently in a little trick I play when I visit the doctor, which I have been doing a lot of lately. Usually, when you visit the doctor, he inevitably asks one of his faithful minions to take your blood pressure. I have terrific blood pressure, but I also suffer from “White Coat Syndrome,” so when that over-sized cuff tightens around my arm, I am always afraid my anxiety will cause the BP reading to spike, resulting in an inaccurate test. What to do? Well, my mental sequence usually starts with the voice of Br’er Rabbit from Disney’s Song of the South, telling me that “Everybody’s got a laughing place,” but now that even Disney plans to re-theme the Splash Mountain ride in its theme parks and get rid of friend rabbit, I realize that this sound bite is racist and retrograde and needs to be stricken from my mental sequence. As that goddamn cuff tightens around my arm, I think of the “happy place” from Sandler’s previous film, Happy Gilmore. The sequence features the protagonist’s grandma winning on a slot machine, his girlfriend Julie Bowen dressed provocatively and holding two pitchers of beer, and a little person dressed as a cowboy astride a broomstick horse. Remembering this sequence makes me laugh, calms me down, and results in readings like 120/72. I am not making this up. Try it sometime.
What I don’t understand or appreciate is a film that derives much of its humor from presenting an adult victim of bullying that then spends its final minutes in a protracted, explanation of why that behavior just isn’t right. This film wants to have its treats and eat them too, by playing both sides of the bully game. An obnoxious grade-schooler insults one of Julie Bowen’s foster children (Bad.) The foster child’s teacher then bullies him right back, making fun of the level at which he’s reading! (Good?) It just seems a bit confused. Maybe I’m taking this silly comedy too seriously, but it seems that when it comes to anything that has anything to do with Halloween, I come by it honestly.