Last year, Adam Sandler earned some of his best reviews — and raised blood pressures — as Howard Ratner, the motormouthed, compulsive-gambler protagonist of “Uncut Gems.” Hubie Dubois, Sandler’s character in the Netflix movie “Hubie Halloween,” is Howard’s inverse: Mr. Responsibility, a dorky deli-counter worker who takes it as his unappointed mission to look out for his fellow Salem, Mass., residents. He turns up, for example, at a school cafeteria to present a lecture on Halloween safety that takes the place of recess. He is at once a thoughtful neighbor and the town narc, a position that has made him the target of ridicule.
Except that this Halloween, Salem — simultaneously faced with a possible werewolf (Steve Buscemi) and a Michael Myers-like psychopath — really does need someone on high alert, even if Hubie alternates between flashes of brilliance and utter obliviousness. Sandler has always been a repository of goofy voices, but what he thought was funny about the mannered muttering he does here is unclear.
Hubie is a proudly regressive role for him, in several senses, and the movie’s primary goal seems to be delivering callbacks to earlier Sandler features. If you smile at a reference to “Billy Madison” or are strangely moved by seeing Sandler working with such past collaborators as Kevin James (barely recognizable as a mulleted cop), Tim Meadows or the “Happy Gilmore” love interest Julie Bowen, then “Hubie Halloween” has accomplished its limited goals.
Occasionally, the nostalgic back-patting makes way for a few good jokes, particularly the ones involving June Squibb as Hubie’s mother, who wears a succession of shirts with filthy sayings. She also sums up this wan story’s moral. The Howard Ratners of the world need their Hubie Duboises.
Rated PG-13. Bullies and monsters. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch on Netflix.
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