R.L Stein’s Goosebumps were a staple of my generation, when we were youth. Almost all of us grew up reading this scary little tales and fighting with each other over who would be the first to get their hands on the newest one, when it would come to our school library. Yes Slappy the Dummy and Monster Blood were just a much a part of our youth as The Simpsons and superheroes. A short lived TV Show based on the books, only further grew our love for the books as we could finally see our favorite creatures come to life. It still puts a smile on my face thinking about the hours spent with Stein’s books.
It was that nostalgia that had me living in fear at the announcement of a live action Goosebumps movie, starting Jack Black. I feared they would just pick one of the stories and make it into a full blow disaster of a film and would forever tarnish the once great legacy of the Goosebumps books, for a new generation. So it was with great delight that I announce that the Goosebumps movie is not a complete disaster, in fact it is an fun little film that this generation of children is sure to love and will give most adults who grew up with the series something to smile about.
Instead of just trying to take one story for the anthology and turn it into an overblown mess, director Rob Letterman and screen writer Darren Lemke decided to focus the story on Stein himself, wonderfully played here by Jack Black and the creatures he wrote about coming to life. So you get to see all your favorite monsters from the books as well as a story that is set in the “real” world, a clever idea that pays off well in the end.
Zach (Dylan Minnette) has just moved into the town of Greendale with his mother (Amy Ryan). He quickly falls in love with the girl who lives next door named Hannah (Odeya Rush) who sneaks out at night and shows him around the town. However her strict father (Black) gets furious when he finds out that his daughter is running around the town with this strange boy. His overprotective nature scares Zach who calls the police on Stein and eventually breaks into his house to check on her welfare. It is there with his best friend the nerdy Champ (short for Champion) (Ryan Lee) discover that Hannah’s dad is actually famed author R.L Stein, when the discover the manuscripts of the Goosebumps books.
What they don’t know though is that once those scripts are open the characters from the books come to live and soon the monsters are running a wreck on the town. It is now up to Stein with the help of Hannah, Zach and Champ to save the town and get the monster back in the books were they belong.
The movie surprisingly doesn’t really overdue it with the special effects, until the very last part of the film, instead staying focused on some of the more popular characters such as Slappy the evil Dummy from The Night of the Living Dummy trilogy, the lawn gnomes from Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena and the giant praying mantises from A Shocker on Shock Street (which the film is borrows heavily from).
This is a kids movie so there is no real time to develop the monsters and give them a real plot other than Slappy just wants to make Stein suffer for locking him in a book, but that is fine because we get to see a series of our favorites in minor roles that is just enough to make you smile as you remember them in their bigger parts in the books.
As a children’s movie this is a pretty good affair that is sure to leave the younger set very happy at the end of the day, as there is enough action and comedy to keep things always moving at pace that is just right for the children to not get restless. Adults who didn’t grow up with Goosebumps may get a bit tried by the third act, as the plot is by the numbers and predictable as is expected.
Still you have to give this movie credit for it took something that I thought was pretty much unfilmable and turned it into a funny little affair that though no masterpiece, was still just enough to bring me right back to my childhood and remember the good old days when Stein was the most terrifying name, to ever bring us joy.