Director: Rob Letterman
Writer: Darren Lemke
Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Ken Marino, Halston Sage, and Amy Ryan.
Synopsis: A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R.L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
If you’re in the right age range, you probably grew up reading the Goosebumps books like I did. R.L. Stine was a one of my favorite authors growing up and I loved the books, and the TV show. When I first read that they were doing a Goosebumps movie though, I was a little hesitant. What exactly would they bring to the big screen and what kind of approach they would take? The movie has been in the works for years but never reach anything but planning stages. Then I saw Jack Black was cast as R.L. Stine I became reluctant, but now after watching Goosebumps, I can happily say, I was wrong about the film and it was a ton of fun to watch.
Goosebumps follows Zach (Minnette) and his mom Gale (Ryan) as they move to a new town of Madison, Delaware for Gale’s new job of being vice president at Zach’s new school. While Zach tries to adjust to his new life he meets one of his neighbors in Hannah (Rush). The two hit it off right away and spend a night having fun and getting to know each other. However, Hannah is scuttled away by her over-protective father “Mr. Shivers” (Black). The next night, Zach hears scream from Hannah’s house and enlists a friend he met at school in Champ (Lee) to rush over and see what’s going on. Once there, they find a shelf filled with Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine and that they are locked. When Hannah comes in the room and scares them, they accidently open one of the books, which happens to be the abominable snowman (of Pasadena).
Zach and Champ then find out that Mr. Shivers is indeed R.L. Stine and Hannah is his daughter. Unfortunately, they have little time to breath as Stine’s worst fears have come true: All his creations are set free by the ventriloquist dummy Slappy (voiced by Jack Black as well). Zach, Hannah, Champ and Stine now have to work together and save the town from being destroyed.
The approach of making Stine a character in the movie is pretty clever in the sense that Stine has to face his own creations and fight them to save his own skin, it also makes a little more sense than making multiple films with different characters and storylines or even an anthology film – although that would awesome to see too. Also, the fact that we get to see multiple of Stine’s creations together was the best way to go really. Of course, all his creations are lead by, arguably, Stine’s most popular villain in Slappy, who takes the role of main bad guy in the film. The reasoning behind him taking the big bad role isn’t just for being bad and taking over the world, which they could, but rather revenge on Stine for locking them away.
Of course, the books were always creepy and scary for some probably, and some of that thankfully carries over to the film. It is a kids movie that is rated PG by the way, so it’s toned down horror. There are some pop-up moments, I’ll admit that one even got me, but even for a kids movie the “horror” moments could please fans of Goosebumps. There’s also a nice mix of old school horror too. There are some nice visuals in the film as well, but some of the CGI does get wonky at times, to point that it does become a bit distracting compared to the other better CG. They also used practical effects, which is welcomed since they could have gone strictly CG, especially for Slappy. Goosebumps is also, surprisingly, more funnier than I thought it would be, and it’s not kid’s movie funny, it is actually genuinely funny with some jokes I wasn’t expecting.
What makes Goosebumps work though is the cast. The main adult cast of Amy Ryan and Jillian Bell as Gale and Zach’s aunt Lorraine, respectively, have their moments with Bell being more of the standout between the two. Ken Marino pops in as coach, Halston Sage as Champ’s sort love-interest, and Timothy Simons and Amanda Lund as the towns cops that have some funny moments at the beginning of the film. Of course, the big adult cast member is Jack Black as the famous author R.L. Stine. He doe serviceable as Stine, coming off as intense and standoffish at the start toward Zach and everyone else, but opens up a little more especially near the end of the film. However, he does get lost in the shuffle a bit with all the craziness and the focus being on the younger trio.
Speaking of that, our three main leads are what make this film so fun, enjoyable, and make the biggest impacts in the film. Ryan Lee is a great comic relief and has great comedic timing and plays well off Dylan Minnette and Jack Black. Dylan Minnette, who I’ve only seen in a few things personally, is believable as the lead here and his chemistry with Odeya Rush’s Hannah is spot on. Finally, Odeya Rush’s Hannah is a strong part of the group and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with her father’s creations.
There is also an interesting twist in the film that was intriguing to see play out, and the cast handled it pretty well. It’s also something that isn’t just thrown in at the end. Looking back, it was touched on at the beginning of the film very subtly and it actually ties in the whole film together and connects a theme that I won’t spoil here.
All in all, Goosebumps is a lot more fun and enjoyable than I first thought it would be and probably how you thought it would be. It’s a fun family film and while Jack Black may be on all the promotion material, he is the biggest star in the film, besides Slappy, the film belongs to the young cast of Minnette, Rush and Lee. Also, what’s not to like to see some of R.L. Stine’s work come to life?
4 out of 5