Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee
The film comically mentions that bestselling children’s book author R.L. Stine has sold more books than Stephen King, yet this is the first major motion picture based on his work. The Goosebumps movie project has been tossed around Hollywood for a while, but this particular script over reaches trying to shove all 62 original stories into one film. Jack Black (Bernie, School of Rock) is always the perfect personality for family material and is the right choice to play a goofy version of the mysterious author (who appears in a cameo). The good news is that Goosebumps is better than Disney’s Tomorrowland, the bad news is that it isn’t adult friendly. Goosebumps reaches higher than Disney’s core audience, but sophisticated teenagers will be bored and unenthused.
Zach Cooper (Minnette) just moved to Madison, Deleware, and he has all sorts of sarcastic jokes about living his life in New York. His mom is the new assistant principal at the local high school and they are determined to make things work following the death of his dad, her husband last year. Next door, in their ideal neighborhood, is a strange man and his daughter Hannah (Odeya), who Zach can’t stop flirting with. When Zach thinks Hannah is in danger he breaks into the dark house to discover the home of R. L. Stine (Black), the famous author. His Goosebumps manuscripts all have locks on them, when opened the famous monsters in the stories jump out of the books and into real life.
Black’s jokes and mannerisms are perfectly suited for the demeanor of this kooky thriller.
Goosebumps has acceptable special effects for the various monsters popping out of the beloved books. It’s the choice to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the script and see where it sticks that muddles the story. The films main villain, Slappy the ventriloquist dummy, one of the books most popular reoccurring characters, is also voiced by Black and could have had an entire story written around him. Perhaps this is the first in many upcoming planned films, a buffet sampling. Minnette (Prisoners, Alexander the Terrible) is a great choice for the lead, the 18-year-old has maturity in his voice but the looks of a kid. Black’s jokes and mannerisms are perfectly suited for the demeanor of this kooky thriller.
Rob Letterman directed Black in the comedy adventure misfire Gulliver’s Travels (2010), here they are more in sync but it’s still no homerun. Goosebumps has all the thrills and chills for young viewers under the age of 12, with predictable plot conclusions and happy endings. One of the pictures most exciting sets is a forgotten Ferris-wheel nestled deep in the woods, providing a romantic moment for the two young stars. Of course later plays a part in the films finale. Jillian Bell and Ryan Lee inundate the movie with comic relief as they bounce and flounder around doing physical comedy.
Won’t impress those who grew up reading the books, might appease younger children.