In the nearly 25 years since the last time they appeared in a movie, Julie Bowen has watched Adam Sandler become a famous actor and comedy icon.
Off screen, not much has changed in the ensuing decades. “He feels like the same guy,” the Emmy-winning “Modern Family” actress says of Sandler, her co-star in the 1996 sports comedy “Happy Gilmore.” “And he still wears giant basketball shorts every day.”
Bowen and Sandler are back together, and playing love interests again, in the upcoming Netflix family comedy “Hubie Halloween” (streaming Oct. 7). Produced and co-written by Sandler and directed by his longtime collaborator Steven Brill (“Little Nicky,” ‘Mr. Deeds”), “Hubie” features a massive cast and gives Sandler a chance to create a new signature role to hang with the likes of Billy Madison, Bobby Boucher and Opera Man.
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In the infamous town of Salem, Massachusetts, big-hearted Hubie Dubois (Sandler) regularly spends Halloween making sure his fellow residents celebrate the holiday safely and keep the childish shenanigans in check, though they don’t often thank him for it. Hubie is mocked for being overly cautious and still living with his mom (June Squibb), plus he’s called the police so often over the years that Officer Steve Downing (Kevin James) actively avoids him.
This year, though, the situation’s actually spookactular. A mysterious new neighbor (Steve Buscemi) has a hankering for the supernatural, there’s an escaped criminal on the loose and some mysterious disappearances have Hubie on red alert. Salem’s resident nerdy hero needs to convince the skeptical authorities that the monsters are real this time; he’s all about solving crimes, but obstacles get in the way of the normal and paranormal varieties.
Thankfully, Hubie has an ally and caring fan in Violet Valentine (Bowen), Hubie’s crush since grade school – and the affection is mutual.
“Violet is smitten. It’s clear that she adores him and he gets very tongue-tied and flustered and kind of flaps away whenever he sees her,” Bowen says. A waitress at the local diner and divorced mom of three foster kids, Violet’s “a good egg, but she also is a little wacky and there are some questions about whether or not she’s involved in all the weirdness that’s going on. There’s some very mysterious business going on with witch burning and werewolves.” (Violet’s name is also an Easter egg: In “Happy Gilmore,” Bowen played Virginia Venit, the PGA Tour PR woman who helped calm Sandler’s angry title golfer.)
Ray Liotta, Michael Chiklis and Shaquille O’Neal also make appearances in “Hubie,” as do a ton of Sandler’s fellow “Saturday Night Live” stars, including Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Kenan Thompson and Rob Schneider, whom Bowen jokingly calls “Adam’s emotional support animal.” But there’s a bunch of young talent as well: “Stranger Things” star Noah Schnapp plays Violet’s high school freshman son, Tommy, and Paris Berelc is Tommy’s senior dream girl, Megan.
“Megan is one of the few that doesn’t bully Hubie, so I was happy to play a nice girl in this movie,” says Berelc, a Halloween loving 21-year-old model and actress who starred in Disney’s “Mighty Med” and Netflix’s “Alexa & Katie.”
Acknowledging that the A-list cast list is “nuts,” Berelc enjoyed watching her family meet her co-stars during a set visit. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet. Your parents are here to support you.’ And I’m like, ‘They’re not here for me. They’re here for Adam Sandler.’ ”
After 11 seasons of “Modern Family,” working with young actors is Bowen’s “sweet spot,” she says. “I like it most of all when they kind of leave me alone with the kids and I can figure out who they are.” But because Sandler’s children, 14-year-old Sadie and 11-year-old Sunny, play Bowen’s on-screen daughters in “Hubie,” “there was no getting away from their dad being there whatsoever.”
Because of COVID-19, there might not be a chance for much trick-or-treating or Halloween revelry this year, and part of why Bowen signed on for “Hubie” – other than the chance of a “Happy” reunion – was to give her three sons (Oliver, 13, and twins John and Gus, 11) something “fun and funny and silly and Halloween-y” this fall.
“My kids ordinarily refuse to watch anything I do,” Bowen says. “Growing up, they just heard ‘Modern Family’ all the time. And they’re like, ‘No, that’s my mom. That is not some lady from “Modern Family.” ’ And I’m hoping that this will give them an opportunity to watch a movie and enjoy it and not react against it like they usually do.”