Directed by Rob Letterman.
Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell and Ryan Lee.
A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R.L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Greendale, Maryland.
It’s a tough task to pick just one beloved monster or story when sitting down to write an adaptation for a Goosebumps film, which is why I’m certain the studio just said “Hey, remember Jumanji? That movie was pretty awesome and is held in high regard, let’s do that but with Goosebumps“! Can you blame them? That’s a successful formula and a win-win situation for fans of R,L Stine’s classic children’s horror novels, provided the movie doesn’t suck of course, which it surprisingly does not.
Speaking of R.L. Stine, he’s actually a character in the movie, played by Jack Black with what appears to be the stereotypical British accent Americans give Brits when they’re playfully poking fun at them. Strange accent aside, what’s most interesting is that he is given a backstory which essentially amounts to Stine being bullied as a child and taking up writing scary stories as a coping mechanism. I won’t lie, some of the brief little nods to the real person actually made me wonder if they were true or not, which is also a telling sign that this movie is doing something interesting besides shoving 3-D creatures in your face.
What obviously isn’t true is that Stine’s creations came to life and are now locked away inside their respective manuscripts. It’s outlandishly stupid, but somewhere amidst monsters coming to life and terrorizing a city lies a genuinely warming story about a guy who must find some personal growth as a human being for himself, after writing countless novels doing the same thing with his protagonists. The single most praiseworthy statement one can make about Goosebumps is that, if you go along with this ludicrous concept of werewolves and snowmen and evil talking ventriloquist dummies coming to life, you’ll find it a pretty damn creative concept for a movie. There are even brief jokes tossed at Stephen King.
Not to make Goosebumps come across as the most clever movie of 2015 however, because it’s not; plenty of the overall narrative is painfully predictable. It’s actually frustrating that every single twist and turn is so out in the open. The forced teen love subplot is also nauseatingly cheesy, paling in comparison to the quirky exploration of Stine’s mind. One must remember though that the movie is a cross between family-friendly comedy and horror, so too much of a grudge can’t be held against it for this. The movie just follows a proven formula of quality for family-friendly affairs, which is I suppose, both a positive and negative.
Most of you are coming for the conjured up monsters that kept you awake all night as a kid though, so I’m also happy to report that whatever floats your boat is here making an appearance. Naturally, some take on more of a presence than others, but by the time all hell has completely broke loose you will have caught a glimpse of everything. The CGI on many of the creatures leaves something to be desired, but it’s a small sacrifice to be made to cram more monsters in.
Goosebumps also supports a game cast that actually has a great deal of chemistry with one another. Jack Black is a bit of a reclusive smart-ass, distrusting of the society around him, but progressively gets friendlier as he learns that people aren’t so bad with the new kid in town (along with his socially awkward new-found friend) helping him and his daughter attempt to right the wrongs by getting the monsters back in their books. It’s not too shocking though considering Jack Black routinely has fun on sets and brings out something special in younger actors.
Many of the film’s set-pieces also feel elaborately crafted instead of a team of writers and a director just flinging shit at the wall, hoping something sticks. Whether it’s at the ice rink, the Stine home, the local grocery store, a high school homecoming dance, and more, there is a lighthearted sense of dread that comes with each encounter. Goosebumps could have easily taken the lazy lowbrow comedy route, but thankfully it refuses to be a typical brand-name cash-in.
Goosebumps may not be high art, but it’s entertaining and the perfect movie for a family Halloween outing. It respects the novels you love while having fun with the characters and doing some interesting things with R.L Stine. Can you really ask for anything more than a wonderful celebration of Stine’s imagination?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook