Goosebumps full movie review - Family films can be much worse than this.
The Goosebumps books have sold in the hundreds of millions around the world since they first went into print, making it one of the most successful series of children's books ever.
It's no surprise then that a TV show was commissioned which found an equal amount of success amongst viewers, leading to a worldwide phenomenon in the 1990s and spawning board games, stage productions, and an endless amount of merchandise. Strangely enough, however, the world never saw a film adaptation of the highly successful series, and 2016 seems a highly unlikely time to produce one given the waining popularity of R.L. Stine's books. Regardless, what director Rob Letterman and star Jack Black have managed to create with their take on the series is a thoroughly entertaining family film which provides plenty of laughs, and plenty of nods to the original books.
The problem with a big screen Goosebumps adaptation is that there are upwards of 60 books, each of them with their own ghoul or creature and independent narrative, making it very difficult to choose one single storyline to work with. In order to cater to fans of each novella, however, screenwriter Darren Lemke has skilfully combined all of these narratives into one film, including R.L. Stine as a character, so that they can all exist within the same storyline. It may sound a lot like 2004's Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, and in many ways it is, but Lemke manages to pay homage to the original series by creating a back-to-basics monster movie which proves to be a lot of fun, and stays true to the books. Fans will recognise creatures from novellas such as The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp come to life and terrorise Madison over the course of the film, providing entertaining moments which cater to the audience's nostalgia. The appearance of each monster brings to mind both the books and the TV show which made the series so popular, and both adults and children can enjoy moments such as the Abominable Snowman raiding a vending machine, or the Gnomes using kitchen utensils as deadly weapons. These creatures, however, are merely tools being used by a much more cunning enemy, a character from the series which inspired fear into children around the world ? myself included ? and featured within more than one book, Slappy. Voiced by Jack Black, Slappy has always been a fan favourite character, perhaps even the Goosebumps monster, and it's a pleasure to see him pulling the strings within the film, leading all of R.L. Stine's creations and causing havoc. There may be a distinct lack of logic into certain aspects of his character (for example, where did he get the car and how on earth can he drive it?) but this is a family film first and foremost, sometimes logic gets left by the wayside in order to tell an entertaining story.
While the creatures are more than satisfying, the human cast are just as fun to watch on screen. Dylan Minnette showcases his likability as Zach, the fish out of water that falls for Odeya Rush's Hannah, proving that he's one to watch in the future, while Ryan Lee provides most of the films humour as Champ, Zach's cowardly friend that finds himself caught up in the events taking place despite his reluctance to be a part of them. Letterman directs each of his younger actors brilliantly, allowing them to find the humour in each scene in order to entertain. Amy Ryan is also excellent as Zach's Mum, able to convey the characteristics that teenagers find so cringe- worthy about their parents. The standout is, however, Jack Black as R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series that wishes to remain anonymous within Madison so that he and his daughter Hannah can have a normal life. Black plays Stine as an introvert, unwilling to share his life with others due to his own arrogance, which leads to a touching character arc that, though bordering on cliché, feels sincere come the finale. Despite his stern exterior, however, Stine receives many of the film's funniest lines, especially when interacting with Champ, a child who's personality he finds grating. Black may not have been on very fine form in recent years, and you could argue even years before that, but he fits both this film and the genre perfectly, able to use his over the top body language and willingness to yell lines to his advantage.
As fun as it may be, however, there are problems to be found within Goosebumps, especially when it comes to the CGI. Though it's enjoyable to see our favourite monsters from the series on the big screen, there's many of them that are poorly rendered and look extremely fake, particularly the Abominable Snowman. Unfortunately, this may take viewers out of the film at several times, but it does redeem itself within some scenes, for example, during the attack of the Gnomes who's movements are similar to those seen in stop motion animation. Another problem is that the film is a little bit too short at only 103 minutes. Children may not have the longest attention spans and though it may be catering to them, there's a lot to include and wrap-up before the credits roll leading to several scenes feeling very rushed. The attack on the high school could have featured a lot more of the monsters clashing with the students, providing physical comedy whilst doing so, but is instead skimmed over in 10 minutes flat in order to reach the actual finale which introduces another poorly rendered CGI character.
Despite it's flaws, which could be said to be flaws of the genre as a whole, Goosebumps is much more than a cash-grab for a dying series. In terms of family friendly entertainment, you can do much, much worse than this.