Movie Review: ‘Goosebumps’


Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee

Plot: Teenaged Zach and his mother move to a new town, where they encounter the bad tempered neighbour and his daughter, who catches his eye. While breaking into the neighbours house thinking she’s in trouble he learns that his neighbour is really R.L. Stine, author of the best selling ‘Goosebumps’ books and accidentally unleashes all the monsters from his books to run rampant.

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Review: One thing we learned from the trailer is that they’ve got a pretty clever premise going on here. Rather than an original story or adapting one of the books, Jack Black plays R.L. Stine living as a recluse. Each of the monsters he has written about is a real and very dangerous, having been locked in a book to prevent them from causing chaos. When one of the original ‘Goosebumps’ manuscripts are unlocked, the monsters escape and set out on a bloodless (it is for kids) killing spree. Given that we’re working with a series renown for it’s twists and reworking of well known stories, this is a clever way to go about the movie and a good way to bring in all the familiar and popular creatures.

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They’re not screaming. They’re yawning.

Sadly all their effort went into that premise, because the rest of the movie is as lazy as it comes. The rest of the script involves the heroes running away from one monster after another as they seek out the designated McGuffin to put a stop to it all. The fight the gnomes in the kitchen, then the giant bug on the road, then the werewolf in the shopping centre then Slappy the dummy at the end with the rest of the monsters making up little more than cameo appearances. Why Stine’s monsters come to life is left unexplained, it’s just something that ‘happened’. Why they get trapped in books and why the books have to be written on his typewriter are glossed over quicker than you can blink, leaving the script open for the actors mugging at the camera and more CGI monsters. 

Jack Black may be cast as Stine, but aside from the glasses he’s just playing Jack Black again, toned down for the young audience. He also voices Slappy the Dummy, the main villain in the piece, but he does little to distinguish the voice of the character so they often sound like one person talking to themselves. The two young leads, Minnette and Rush, do very well with the material they’re given and manage to be relatable, if cliched, characters with good chemistry. Unfortunately they get saddled with an immensely unfunny example of comedic relief who’s first gag is a gay joke, later followed up with some hilarious ‘girly’ screaming. He adds little to film and could’ve been cut without any fuss.

The CGI bringing the monsters to life is also admirable, giving them a bright, cartoony look without looking silly. The artwork from the books distinctive covers has been the basis for the design work and they do look great stomping around the town. None of them get especially well fleshed out though, with the expectation being that you’ve read the book. Slappy is the arch villain for Stine but there’s no backstory offered.

This is a movie perusing the nostalgia market. If you’re not a young viewer and you haven’t read the books then this movie doesn’t want to know you. The monsters are classic characters like werewolves for the most part, but the majority of the movie comes in references for fans only. Save it for the kids.

Rating: FIVE out of TEN

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