When you’re a kid, there’s a lot to be scared of. From bullies, to homework, to even that one girl/boy you like for reasons beyond your limited life experiences most kids are little balls of fear at some points in their lives. That being said, things can get worse when you add on top of that the works of R.L. Stine.
While most of the books I read (or pretended to read while thinking about ReBoot or whatever) were silly small mysteries (shout out to the Clue book series) it was Goosebumps that really caught my attention. With monsters and characters not to far off from who I was at the time, the stories were easy to get into, and easy to finish…well short of the one about mutant potatoes with teeth…it’s made eating baked potatoes difficult for me even to this day.
So when the creatures of Mr. Stine came to the big screen, it was natural that I was gonna check it out.
Goosebumps follows Zack Cooper (Dylan Minnette), a teen who moves to a new town after his father’s death. While moving in, Dylan is introduced to his new neighbours, a mysterious man trying to hide his identity as famous writer R.L. Stine (Jack Black) and his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush).
While Stine tries to scare Zack off, he ends up fearing that Stine is holding Hannah captive. Along with his one new school friend Champ (Ryan Lee), the two break into the Stine house. Once inside the two end up finding the authors manuscripts, each one with a lock holding the pages shut. Once opened the monsters of the Goosebumps stories leave the book and terrorize the real world.
With Stine’s most notorious creation, Slappy, escaped he ends up freeing all of his monsters. It’s up to Zack, Champ, Hannah and Stine himself to trap the creatures back into the books and save their town.
On the surface Goosebumps is kind of a silly film. It tries to take a bunch of books that aren’t that long and brings them together to try and make a larger narrative out of them. While this might sound like a large task for a franchise with over 180 books, the movie ends up picking around four or five stories to focus on, non of which as interesting as the villainous puppet. During several points in the film, Slappy points out who similar it and Stine are, adding a interesting angle to the creator/creature relationship. They’re two sides of the same coin, with Slappy seemingly being all of the anger and darkness in Stine’s life.
When the dummy isn’t on screen the film also focuses on; a giant prying mantis, a werewolf, aliens, zombies/ghouls and an invisible boy. While there are some fun segments with each of the creatures, all of them are some of the more general and not extremely creative monsters in the Goosebumps collection. Sadly little to no time was given to Pick your Own Goosebumps monster Fifi The Vampire Poodle.
However, when the creatures are on screen they’re presented in a 3D animated style done by Sony Animation. While this idea might have sounds like a cool way of bridging the gap between the two studios, the effects don’t really impress that much short of the monsters leaving and returning to the page. Making it worse is the films 3D. In total there are maybe four or five segments that really use the
gimmick technology at all, making it’s main purpose seemingly to sell a more expensive movie ticket.
While these monster segments are fun, they’re separated by large segments of the movie that leave a great deal to be desired. From lame puns to some tired and an overused tropes, Goosebumps feels like it could have used a fresh set of eyes during the screenplay stages of development.
Additionally, the film’s cast isn’t as deep as one would hope. While most films like this rely on younger actors, the only actor who really stood out was Jack Black in the roles of Stine, Slappy and the Invisible Boy. While Black might not have had the blockbuster career some might have hoped, Black is the life of this film bringing all the energy in the world. His best scene been during the giant mantis driving scene, which was legitimately one of the funniest moments in film this year.
Overall, Goosebumps is a safe movie. It features a paint by numbers script filled with cliches, terrible puns and the lame 3D that’s used more for profit then creativity but it also features some fun action set-prices and a solid performance from Jack Black. It’s not gonna be a Halloween classic anytime soon, but Goosebumps ends up doing enough to be memorable to young and old fans alike. If you’re looking for a spooky but not scary film this month, Goosebumps is solid.
Goosebumps was produced by Sony Pictures Animation, LStar Capital, Original Film, Village Roadshow Pictures and Scholastic Entertainment. The film is distrusted by Columbia Pictures.