Goosebumps: Nostalgia Lane for Some, Great Fun for All
Normally, I only write reviews of movies if I’ve seen it opening weekend, but for Goosebumps, I’m making an exception. Last night, at the Silvermoon Drive-in located in Lakeland, Florida, we saw the newly released Goosebumps movie starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine himself. When the film was announced, it was no surprise due to the recent attack by Hollywood on everything from our childhood and turning it into movies, good and bad. Goosebumps was one of the more popular names in the 90s, with its ever growing book collection, I have about 25 of them myself, and the TV series airing on Fox Kids every Saturday morning. Plus, straight to video specials were made. The series rings a creepy bell for those of us who grew up in the 90s and I watch the show any chance I got. My favorites of the books were the ‘choose your own adventure’ books. I couldn’t get enough of Goosebumps and I’m sure the books are just as popular among kids today. The problem wasn’t the why, but it was the how. How were they going to make this into a legitimate movie. Surely, they couldn’t just use one book to make a whole movie on; which would you choose? Would it be an original ghost story movie? Or would it be about Stine himself. Then, Jack Black was announced as the lead, as R.L. Stine no less, and fans screamed out in agony. Personally, I generally enjoy Black in his films, and I know many people do not, but even I was scratching my head at this decision. And then the plot was released, saying the characters of Stine’s books come out of the pages to terrorize the small town, and everyone must work together to capture them again. Talk about generic. We were all hoping this wouldn’t just be another proverbial ‘rape’ of our childhood, and I have to say, it wasn’t in the slightest!
Goosebumps opens open a mother and her son Zach, played by Dylan Minnette moving to a new home in Madison, Delaware, and of course Dylan is very unhappy about it. We soon meet Zach’s aunt, Loraine, who is probably the most annoying character of the film, but really only one of the few problems with it. (She’s supposed to be annoying, I know.) Shortly after, Zach meets the girl next door, Hannah, played by Odeya Rush, who is the daughter of Mr. Shivers (R.L. Stine), played by Jack Black. There is clearly a connection between the two, but they are quickly interrupted by Stine who warns Zach to stay away and there won’t be any problems. Unsurprisingly, Zach and Hannah sneak out together and become friends. Stine catches them again and decides to make it more difficult for Zach to see Hannah. Later that night, Zach hears Hannah scream inside of her house. Zach runs to make sure she’s OK, but her father refuses to let him in or see Hannah. So Zach calls the police, but Hannah is no where to be found when the police, who are two good comical characters throughout the film, search the house. Stine even has a convenient excuse, saying she’s visiting her mother, whom he recently divorced. Zach doesn’t believe him, so he calls the house claiming to be the cops, asking Stine to come to the station for a few more questions. When gone, Zach and his new friend Champ, sneak into the house to search for Hannah, but they find so much more.
Champ notices manuscripts on a bookcase, all with titles of Goosebumps stories on them, but they are all locked shut. To appease his friend, Zach finds the key and unlocks The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Hannah arrives and scares them, questioning why they’re in her house, but from his fright, Champ drops the now unlocked book. When Zach goes to pick it up, he accidentally opens it and the Abominable Snowman escapes the pages, breaking through the house to wreak havoc upon the town. After a short adventure, the kids return to Stine’s home, with Stine himself. They’ve now realized who he really is, but not before some nice quips thrown out towards Stephen King. Stine explains the books and creatures, how everything works, but now since the Abominable Snowman got loose, they must move once again! But it is too late. Another famous Goosebumps story had opened and Slappy the Dummy as arrived! He intends to get revenge on Stine for keeping him locked away by releasing every creature Stine has ever created! This puts us on a wild ride for the rest of the film, and Slappy is driving the car!
Goosebumps as a film fires on all cylinders. The director, Rob Letterman, clearly took great care with the material he had to work with. Even though the basic plot seems generic, it works incredibly well for this film. It is a smart way to pay homage to many of the books all at once, while putting arguably the most popular character ever created by Stine, Slappy, as the leader. The cast is excellent on all accounts, especially Jack Black. Like I mentioned before, I was weary about Black portraying Stine, but he did a fabulous job. He was a bit silly, but not corny or over the top. Black was incredibly enjoyable to watch from beginning to end. Minnette and Rush have great chemistry together on screen, and his best friend Champ, played by Ryan Lee, offers some very funny moments throughout.
There is little to complain about this film. While it has a nice subtle, creepy vibe throughout, no more than the TV series, it also offers consistent laughs. The movie delivers high on nostalgia for anyone who is/was a fan of the book/TV series, but don’t think you won’t be able to follow what is going on if you know zero about Goosebumps. My fiance, who never read or saw any Goosebumps growing up, absolutely loved the film for many of the same reasons I did. There is even a cameo from author R.L. Stine himself, but I won’t say when. I only wish the composer, Danny Elfman, who I love, would’ve thrown in the TV series theme song somewhere in the film. It would’ve added even more nostalgia for me! The movie is great for all ages, and I highly recommend it for this Halloween season! I only wish I was familiar with even more of the book, so I could appreciate the movie even more!