Directed by Rob Letterman
Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee
Review by Jordan
R. L. Stine’s seminal kids horror books are brought to blockbuster life in Goosebumps, an adaptation lacking in invention but full of breezy humour and creepy creations certain to both entertain the older ones with fond childhood memories and scare the young ones in a Joe Dante fashion.
When Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves with his mum to the eventless town of Madison, Delaware, he befriends his neighbour Hannah (Odeya Rush), thinks she’s being held captive by her deranged father (Jack Black), unclasps one of many Goosebumps manuscripts he mysteriously keeps in a glass cabinet thus unleashing the Abominable Snowman and subsequently the sinister ventriloquist doll (don’t call him “Dummy”) Slappy and realises that said father is in fact the legendary author Stine himself. With Slappy reeking havoc across the town, Zach and his newly found acquaintance, ladies man Champ (Ryan Lee), unite with Hannah and Stine to send these creations back into the realm of fiction and imagination where they belong, a task easier read than done.
Perhaps Madison isn’t so bad after all.
While the plot is formulaic (see the fantastic TV Series from 1995 for a more thorough example of the books brought to life), director Rob Letterman manages to maintain a decent level of entertainment throughout, thanks to likeable characters and moments of goofball comedy that feel right in place and use the many varied monsters to good effect. A recurring joke at the expense of the more heralded Stephen King also never fails to please, especially when a pivotal scene takes place in a recreated set of the Shining. Jack Black though is the star of the show, fully committing to the role of the apparently neurotic and accented author while also voicing Slappy and Invisible Boy. Fans of Tenacious D and Goosebumps will get a thrill out of seeing the two strangely come together, and after having trouble of late in finding a suitable role for his talents, it’s reassuring that there’s scope for sequels for him to continue having fun.
As mentioned, improvements could have been made to the story for originalities sake (it would be interesting to list the amount of American films in this and the horror genre that prominently feature a school dance/prom as a convenient plot device), but Goosebumps is a hugely appealing monster movie made with care and solid production values, both of which can be rarer than suitable typewriters when it comes to PG action/adventure titles.