Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
Jack Black – R.L. Stine / Slappy
Dylan Minnette – Zach Cooper
Odeya Rush – Hanna Stine
Ryan Lee – Champ
Amy Ryan – Gale Cooper
Jillian Bell – Lorraine
R.L. Stine – Himself
I was excited.
The first time I spotted the poster (on a billboard in the Elephant & Castle area of London) for this movie, I smiled. Because Goosebumps made up a huge part of my childhood as a staple read as well as deliciously sinister television programme to run home from school for.
As an eleven-year-old back in the mid-nineties, I remember being so obsessed with the books that I not only ensured I had every one in the entire collection, but i also wrote a letter to R.L. Stine himself – and got a reply. I wrote to Scholastic books, who forwarded my letter to Stine, who responded directly to me. It was one of the most exciting moments of my eleven-year-old life so far.
Fast-forward to thirty-three-year-old me, and my tastes have obviously changed. My passion for haunted houses, monster librarians and face-sucking masks is way back in history. But maturity aside, I decided to head to the cinema to indulge in a creepy blast from the past..
From a child’s point of view:
Goosebumps is a brilliant watch. It’s fast and snappy with the lead characters literally running from one scene to the next, taking the audience with them. Quality visuals ensure R.L. Stine’s monsters come to life with such vibrant animation that I was totally fixed on the screen, I can’t fault them at all. The gnomes, the ventriloquist dummy, the werewolf.. each character from his books comes to life nice and creepily. Goosebumps is brought into 2016 with modern visuals that are bursting with colour and clarity, as well as some decent humour (Black does good). This movie is a fresh take on what we had back in the nineties and is delivered by an easy-going story (I.E. Zach moving to a new neighbourhood and discovering a strange neighbour next door, so goes snooping to find out more..). The concept is simple which makes for a very watchable feature. Goosebumps carries an air of excitement during certain scenes, the cast do a great job of moving the story along at a fast pace whilst delivering sarcastic and witty dialogue at the same time.
The movie becomes an eruption of book characters who wreak havoc on Zach’s new home town, which eventually escalates into total carnage and ends up with one hell of a firey explosion. It’s certainly all go, and all these elements make it the perfect watch for kids of early teenage years and under. It’s just the right amount of scary – without being too scary. If I was a kid, I’d probably find Goosebumps more freaky than shitting my pants over it.
If you have younger viewers in need of entertaining, this is the movie to choose.
From an adult’s point of view:
Goosebumps disappointed me slightly. The main reason for this being the book characters – or lack of.
I was craving the appearance of classic monsters; the mask or masks (The Haunted Mask), the worms (Go Eat Worms), the Mutant (Attack of The Mutant), Monster Blood (Monster Blood), the vampire (Vampire Breath), the monster librarian (The Girl Who Cried Monster), etc..
Instead, the monsters became a huge ensemble of cliché characters you’d find in any other book or movie: walking dead / zombies, bears and wolves, a singular clown..
It became a rubbish dump of randoms.
The clown seemed to pop up at various intervals with a bizarre smile on his face; I couldn’t actually tell which book he was from. It could’ve been any book. This element drained the novelty of Stine’s creations from the movie massively; the fact all these characters could have been from anything – I mean, at least four of his books contain zombies.
Another moan of mine is just how childish the movie is. I am fully aware it’s for kids, but Goosebumps could have easily taken a different production style and shaped the story into something perfect for kids and adults, but it failed to do so. Instead, the maturity level nose-dived and gave us scenes such as the school hall being under attack. When the kids at the high school dance barracade themselves in, a teacher is dragged – very violently – out of a window backwards. But appears at the end of the movie absolutely fine and wearing a neck brace.
In any other movie, the victim would have perished instantly. But again due to the producers watering Goosebumps down to child level, it didn’t include any dicey moments. Just stupidity.
I kept my eye out and did spot the executioner from A Night In Terror Tower and the scarecrow from The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight.
Using Slappy (Night of The Living Dummy) as the main protagonist was a nice idea though. Maintaining his well-known michevious disposition, the dummy is the one who releases R.L. Stine’s monsters in the first place and then drives off into the night to cause even more terror for the town’s residents. Cheeky, scary, naughty. Good show.
Visuals-wise, I was won over completely. A movie such as this runs the risk of being tacky; ventriloquist dummy, garden gnomes, giant praying mantis, etc. But each character was brought to life nicely and with great animation. Nothing shabby here as CGI meets vivid colours to create perfect fluidity. Points scored for this.
I will also point out that Jack Black did good in his portrayal of Mr R.L. Stine. A convincing show all the way, Black delivers the author with gusto. I noticed he even has a slight accent like the man himself, and didn’t go over the top. Unlike many of Black’s previous flicks where he shouts his way to an unfunny flop, the actor piped down but stepped up in delivering a genuine performance. He was very effective, kept me entertained with stern facial expressions and moody personality.
Ryan Lee is superb as Champ – a fellow school friend of Zach who is one of the reasons all the mayhem kicks off, and gets caught up in some dangerous situations during the movie. From his first scene the actor brings sheer comic relief as Zach’s bumbling sidekick; his goofy appearance and heartfelt honesty ensure a character who stands out from the crowd and keeps the comedy flowing. Whereas the other kids remain quite serious, Champ is usually heard screaming like a girl, provoking particular monsters, or seen running off into the distance when their group are attacked, leaving them behind. The kid had me laughing a few times with his refreshing take on the liability character element.
The actor is a funny looking chap; he fits right in to Goosebumps (a few of the kids in the television series had distinctive features too), and those teeth – Jesus. He could give Esther Rantzen a run for her money. But it is his appearance that mixes with character and makes Champ such a memorable character.
Good work from Black, great work from Lee. Not overly great from the other adult actors though. The ensemble including Zach’s mother (Ryan) and Coach Carr (Marino) were as flat as a bottle of Coke that had been left out all night; no dynamics seemed to radiate from them at all, as though they were merely extras in the movie. The only solid entertainment value came from Lorraine (Bell) whose chemistry with Black was very natural and witty.
Oh, and is it just me – or is Odeya Rush (Hannah) the absolute double of Mila Kunis? The girl’s facial features are so similar it’s uncanny..
If you have children of six and upwards, I would say this is the perfect movie to sit them in front of for an hour or so. It’s bright and colourful, contains plenty of havoc and moves at a great speed. And to complement this are a load of various freaky characters running around for sheer entertainment value. Goosebumps is excellent for children, but certainly not a flick for adults; of course some viewers may want to give it a go to reminisce over their reading days but other than this it’s a load of what people call ‘kids stuff’.