When the lawn gnomes are pissed, you know there’s a problem.
Full disclosure: I have never read any of the Goosebumps books. This is a bit strange to me considering that the first one was released when I was twelve, yet it is the truth none the less. I do remember the covers, and I probably had plenty of friends who were fans, but for whatever reason they just kind of missed me I guess. Twenty-plus years and almost a hundred books later, the series has now been turned into a movie; I watched it this weekend with an excited nine year old and the wife.
The film presents a pretty interesting take on the books. Instead of directly adapting any of them, the movie instead sets up a fictional “real” world where author R.L. Stine (Jack Black) has the power to make his creations come to life. The only problem is that if he doesn’t keep the original manuscripts locked up he has no control over his characters. This leads to Stine being a bit of a recluse who refuses to let his teenage daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush), leave the house — not even for school, let alone to hang out with their new neighbor Zack (Dylan Minnette) who has taken a shine to her.
Zack recently moved to town with his mom, Gale (Amy Ryan). The pair left New York City to start a new life after the death of Zack’s father. Zack makes friends with a kid named Champ (Ryan Lee), and pretty soon the two end up at Stine’s house and inadvertently set loose some of the characters from his books. Needless to say hilarity ensues.
Goosebumps is a pretty fun movie and the kids will definitely enjoy it. Jack Black is very good in it, and the film definitely benefits from his manic energy. The movie, directed by Rob Letterman and written by Darren Lemke (with a story by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski), is very tongue in cheek and that is to its benefit. Instead of going for cheap scares, Goosebumps goes more for laughs and atmosphere.
There are problems with the film (plot holes galore, some questionable deliveries, and changing rules within the film itself) but none of that ruins it. Also note that I am a grown man reviewing a movie geared toward middle schoolers. I very seriously doubt that many of them are going to notice that some lines are obviously (badly) improvised, or that the ending doesn’t really make sense. Most twelve year olds will be too busy laughing at the lawn gnomes or being scared of the werewolf.
Is Goosebumps a genre bending classic? No, but it’s got a lot more spunk than I would expect out of a film based on books that were huge two decades ago. Granted, Goosebumps never really went away, but they haven’t been at the forefront for a while, usurped by claptraps like The Hunger Games. I would say that is about to change.
Until next time…