This was a very enjoyable, fast-paced, family Halloween movie. It is clear that everyone working on this had great love for the source material. Jack Black is seriously hamming it up and it’s very entertaining. The CGI in Goosebumps is nothing to write home about, but it never fully distracted me from how much fun I was having watching the movie. Although Halloween has passed, I would still recommend Goosebumps for anyone looking to be entertained for the better part of two hours.
When Zach and his mom Gale move from the city of New York to small town Madison, Delaware following a personal tragedy, he immediately takes an interest in his next-door neighbor Hannah. Unfortunately, Hannah’s father, Mr. Shivers, wants him to stay far and away from her. After sneaking into his neighbor’s house, Zach finds manuscripts for the popular children series Goosebumps and accidentally opens one unleashing the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. He quickly discovers that Mr. Shivers is the author R.L. Stine, whose creations come to life unless he traps them in a book. However, Stine’s most famous creation, Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy, is looking to gain revenge on his creator and terrorize the town by unleashing all of Stine’s creations.
Although it seems like a long setup, the movie moves extremely quickly to get to the carnage. I hardly learned anything about the characters before the creatures started popping up and I promptly forgot everyone’s name. It’s refreshing to see a movie that does away from origin building and just dives right into the action with nary a pause between all the chase scenes. Here are these guys, here are the monsters chasing them, and go. It’s a very simple setup, a very simple problem, with a fairly simple solution that anyone in the audience could have thought of as soon as Shivers was revealed to be Stine. But it’s wonderful in its simplicity, and in its nostalgia.
The big draw is the creatures from the Goosebumps. Slappy is, of course, the most recognizable one and, fittingly, he is the main antagonist of the movie. Nonetheless, he is somewhat sympathetic. He was created when a young and bullied Stine needed him and Stine has kept him locked up since. This is his main motivation, as he feels that his ‘father’ has wronged him and his brethren. From there, the most prominently featured monsters are the Abominable Snowman, the deadly Garden Gnomes, a giant Praying Mantis, a Werewolf, and the Blob that Ate Everyone.
Unfortunately, the CGI is the most disappointing part of the movie. Movie studios need to understand that CGI, animatronics, and make-up and costume design make the best impact on viewers. This is why Jurassic Park is a classic that still holds up even today. Crimson Peak also married all of those factors for some great moments, but Goosebumps just goes CGI crazy and in doing so it becomes its greatest weakness. The old TV series had horrible (as in bad) monster designs, especially looking back on it now. But there is a fondness for these designs, like the monsters from the Power Rangers.
Now, with a very strong budget, they completely missed the opportunity to fully update Goosebumps monster through costume design. As fun as the movie was, it was hard not to have this nagging in the back of my head, but hey, nostalgia is a powerful force. That’s why I haven’t seen the newest TMNT movie as of writing this. But kids definitely enjoyed the new TMNT, and they’ll most likely enjoy Goosebumps. Maybe it’s time to pass the torch…or not! To quote Principal Skinner, “It’s the children that are wrong.”
So the actors were umm…um…who’s in this movie again? Jack Black has a lot of fun, but I have no idea who the other leads are. Let me check imdb, okay, so there’s Odeya Rush (who?) as Hannah, she did a great job. There’s Ryan Lee (…again, who?) as Champ, an annoying best friend/comic relief character who started off as being someone very punchable and his character arc made him into someone slightly less punchable. Finally, the main character, Zach, is played by Dylan Minnette (who the hell are these people?). I didn’t mind him at all. He has good acting chops and excellent comedic timing. I’m just happy that they didn’t decide to cast Jai Courtney; I really don’t like that guy.
The best bits come from the supporting cast. Jillian Bell plays Zach’s aunt and she is just phenomenal. Her brand of comedy is infectious and the theater had a lot of laughs whenever she came on the scene. Veep’s Timothy Simmons and newcomer Amanda Lund shine as two comedic officers. Their time onscreen is brief but extremely memorable.
I don’t know of many movies that have such a narrow focus. There’s Hocus Pocus, of course, which is a bit similar in its overall feel. Frankly, Goosebumps is just a fun, enjoyable, movie that any lover of the books, or the series, will have a great time watching.