The notion of taking an iconic series of children’s books and turning it into a major motion picture is quite the Hollywood move. Nostalgia will motivate the biggest of movie companies to begin production on the craziest of topics. Why else would make a movie based on popular who dun-it board game (Clue)? Goosebumps certainly could have been just another flaccid attempt by Hollywood to take us down memory lane, but thanks to some quirky humor, some unique twists, and genuine heart, it’s much more.
Goosebumps is far from a perfect film. The narrative is reminiscent of a Hollywood screenwriter’s Mad-lib. ____ (name a character) moves to a new town (name a town) ______ with his single mother ______ ( mom’s name) start a new life and realizes that the creepy neighbor _______ (creepy name) is more than he says he is. It just so happens that in this version of the Mad-lib the creepy neighbor happens to the Goosebumps author R.L. Stine (played by Jack Black). In the film’s version of reality, the books are what they are, but the author has the ability to conjure up his monsters and trap them inside the pages of the books. If Stine’s monstrosities were ever to escape it would be pandemonium in the streets. I’m sure you can probably guess what happens next.
The film’s has encounters with the “Werewolf of Fever Swap”, “The Giant Praying Mantis”, and “Slappy the Evil Ventriloquist Dummy” (voiced by Jack Black). The CGI effects are not stellar, but that could have been done to dampen the scare factor as this film is targeting a younger demographic. Director Rob Letterman does deserve credit because he didn’t lose sight of the purpose of Goosebumps and that is to scare and have fun in doing so. Letterman also makes sure to tip that cap ever so slightly to the literary world. When the monsters do materialize in Goosebumps, they do so when the words off the pages of Stine’s manuscripts start to merge together resulting in his beasts to appear.
Goosebumps’s heart can be seen in Stine’s (Black) interaction with Zach (Dylan Minnette). Both are antisocial in their own ways. Stine because he doesn’t want his monsters to get out in public unleash havoc on the populous; Zach due to the death of this father. Through the course of the movie both realize that you can’t get lost in the drudgery of your problems and they should put themselves out there. Of course it takes the threat of the town being destroyed by a narcissistic ventriloquist dummy that has a slight Napoleonic complex but, hey, whatever works.
In the end, Goosebumps certainly isn’t an earth shattering film. But it didn’t need to be as it’s a pleasant and unique take on an iconic children’s book series. Any child who’s in second grade all the way to the seventh grade is just going to love this movie. Who knows, it might just motivate the kids to go buy some books after they leave the theater