Adam Sandler doesn’t have many new tricks up his sleeve with his latest Netflix “treat” in Hubie Halloween. Here he employs his Waterboy voice as a self professed holiday monitor in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Hubie is a constantly bullied and goodhearted mama’s boy (also Waterboy shades) who is easily scared and easily grates on one’s nerves within moments. This is the typical streaming mediocrity we have come to expect from its star, but it’s slightly more of a letdown after the career best work we just saw from him in Uncut Gems.
Collaborating with his frequent director Steven Brill, Hubie is squarely aimed at teens and Sandler diehards. There’s familiar faces galore and many of their characters are marked not by funny dialogue, but “funny” appearances. Kevin James (the town law enforcement) has funny facial hair! Tim Meadows has funny hair! Steve Buscemi has funny arm hair because he might be a werewolf! June Squibb (as his dear mama) wears funny t-shirts! Shaquille O’Neal has a funny voice in a bit that pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Fog (one of the few that I actually chuckled at).
As for plot, Sandler’s latest weird title character has to deal with an overstuffed amount of it. There’s his romantic subplot with his Happy Gilmore love interest Julie Bowen. We have a recently escaped patient from a mental institution. There are multiple tormentors of Hubie who get plenty of screen time, including Ray Liotta and Michael Chiklis. And it all happens on one long (and 102 minutes is too long here) Halloween day and night where Hubie’s constant sidekick is an all purpose thermos which serves soup, is a megaphone, and serves every other function imaginable.
Hubie Halloween isn’t awful (some other Sandler Netflix experiences are) as much as totally disposable. It’s as childish as the central character. Sometimes that works for this comedic performer with the right screenplay. This one, with a smattering of decent jokes, is mostly stuck in its own unfocused fog.
The main issue here is a familiar one. Sandler is either playing someone obnoxious or a buffoon. It’s the latter in this case and too often this latest buffoon just isn’t that funny. Even with all that supposedly hilarious hair everywhere.
The latest Halloween installment has so much reverence for the 1978 original that it has no use for the multiple sequels that followed. It ignores them and that includes the ones where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) appeared. She’s not Michael’s sister. She’s not living under an assumed name while working at a boarding school 20 years after his night of havoc. This Halloween ignores all of that and is a direct sequel from what happened four decades ago.
It cheats a little with that. As you’ll recall, John Carpenter’s classic concluded with Michael Myers apparently still on the loose. Here we learn that he was apprehended and has been in custody for 40 years. His psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is long gone with a new doc (Haluk Bilginer) studying him. Michael is about to be transferred to a new facility on the night before his beloved title holiday (maybe picking a different day for that would have been wise). You can correctly guess whether that transfer is successful.
Laurie is still experiencing PTSD from her encounter in ‘78. She’s an alcoholic reclusive double divorcée estranged from daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and grandchild Allyson (Andi Matichak). Her off the beaten path home is a survivalist den. Karen strayed after her mother (wisely it turns out) taught her how to take down a monster. Michael’s breakout session provides the chance.
David Gordon Green directs and shares co-writing duties with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. They sprinkle the screenplay with nods to part one both large and small. This reimagining recognizes that providing Michael a lot of back story isn’t needed, as the sequels eventually did to a ridiculous degree. He’s The Shape… an unstoppable machine who perhaps cannot be taken out. Nick Castle, who donned the infamous mask 40 years back, returns. Carpenter is around as well – providing the iconic music.
Halloween is effective in spurts. It takes some time to get its motor running while the original was lean and mean. Some of Michael’s kills are fine examples of blunt force creativity. Curtis clearly loves the role of Laurie and she has a few memorable moments as a now badass grandma. She’s not just an unwilling victim anymore. Laurie wants Michael to escape so she can finish him off and that’s a welcome touch.
Yet in all honesty, the 2018 edition never rises too much above the level of the first sequel in 1981. It continues the story from the greatest slasher ever in a serviceable, sometimes scary, and far more spotty way. Of course, I never expected this to match what came with Carpenter’s low-budget vision. Perhaps I hoped it would have a little more running time where it came closer.
Blogger’s Note (10/12/18): A week before its premiere, I’m revising my estimate up from $67.2 million to $75.4 million
Next weekend, the latest Halloween entry arrives in theaters and this one does so with a twist. While this is the 11th installment in the 40-year-old franchise, it ignores everything that happened in parts 2-10 and serves as a direct sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter classic. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode with Nick Castle (the original Michael Myers) donning the mask once again. David Gordon Green, known for pics as varied as Pineapple Express and last year’s Boston Marathon drama Stronger, directs and is co-writer along with comedic actor Danny McBride. Blumhouse Productions is behind this and they have proven themselves as masters of making low-budget horror flicks hugely profitable ventures (the price tag is only a reported $10 million). Costars include Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, and Will Patton.
This is actually Curtis’s fifth time playing her iconic character when including Halloween II, 1998’s Halloween: H20, and Halloween: Resurrection. Just pay no mind to anything that happened to her in those follow-ups. The release date timed for the actual holiday and the return of the series best known player has created some serious buzz. So did its screening at the Toronto Film Festival where it premiered to solid reviews (Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 85%).
Add all that up and Halloween appears primed to scare up big business. The current record holder for biggest horror debut of all time belongs to last year’s It at $123 million and that mark seems unattainable. However, this seems poised to top 2018’s The Nun, which premiered with $53 million. I believe a mid 70s gross is where Laurie and Michael will stake their claim, which would give it the second highest October debut behind Venom.
Halloween opening weekend prediction: $75.4 million
10 years ago Today in Movie History – January 16 – marked the release of Along Came Polly, the romantic comedy headlined by Ben Stilller and Jennifer Aniston. The pic would debut to a terrific $27.7 million in its opening weekend, ending the month-long reign of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. With a stellar supporting cast that included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, and a sight impaired ferret, Polly‘s overall domestic haul would eventually stand at $88 million.
Today marks the 66th birthday of director John Carpenter. He is responsible for what I believe to be the greatest slasher flick ever – 1978′ Halloween. There’s also a trio of genre classics starring Kurt Russell – Escape from New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China. Other notables features: Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Christine, Starman, and They Live.
January 16th would have marked the 35th birthday of Aaliyah. The R&B singer was certainly known more for her musical career, but she was beginning to branch out to film with roles in Romeo Must Die with Jet Li and Queen of the Damned. Aaliyah was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001.
As for Six Degrees of Separation between the two:
John Carpenter directed Kurt Russell in Escape from New York
Kurt Russell was in Tango&Cash with Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone was in The Expendables with Jet Li
Jet Li was in Romeo Must Die with Aaliyah
And that’s today – January 16th – in Movie History!