I would have to say that I probably like Jack Black more than most people. I would definitely say I loved the Goosebumps titles more than the average kid, especially the choose-your-own-adventure style reads that R.L. Stine provided to many young readers. With every reason to love it, I couldn’t help but get a certain bad taste in my mouth from watching the new film from Columbia Pictures. It has all the makings of something that could be a family favorite like Hocus Pocus or Casper but instead focuses far too much on the comedy of it all.
When Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) endures a family loss, him and his mother Gale (Amy Ryan) move from big-city New York to small-town Madison, Delaware. It’s bad enough moving to a new town and attending a school where you don’t know anyone, but to have your mother as the vice principal has got to make things far worse. Zach seems to find someone he connects with in his neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush) but her oddly mysterious and protective father Mr. Shivers will not allow any inter-mingling to occur. In fact, she’s not even allowed to leave the house for some reason. When Zach hears Hannah scream from next door, he enlists in the help of new school friend Champ (Ryan Lee) to go investigate. While in the house of Mr. Shivers, they discover a book shelf full of manuscripts written by R.L. Stine; Goosebumps manuscripts. Mr. Shivers is really R.L. Stine. They notice the locks on each notebook, but are not even briefly held back by that due to the key being gloriously displayed via a glass case directly in front of the book case. Why would the notebooks be locked? Of course through sheer predictable clumsyness, we learn that the locks are to keep the monsters within from escaping their prisons.
Although Jack Black can make me laugh with a quick dance and a macho voice, this movie couldn’t keep my attention even with all the Black mannerisms in tow. The plot seemed way too obvious and I saw the twist coming from the trailers. I hoped it wouldn’t be so simple or that they would at least spend time on more than one of the many great monsters R.L. Stine created in the pantheon of his career but Slappy was all we got. At the very least, the resident expert on Stine books, Champ, should have known all the tricks and techniques used in the books to outwit the ghouls. That would have given one of the characters something to grow on as Champ was the one with more fears than most kids his age. Learning to battle his nightmares with the knowledge he learned while reading would have been a great call back to the original goal of the Goosebumps novels; which was to inspire kids to read.
Ultimately, the performances aren’t bad. I’ve always enjoyed Amy Ryan and the random pairings with hilarious comedians like Jillian Bell and Ken Marino squeeze a few laughs out of me. But this was definitely a throw away comedy that will be forgotten very quickly. Forget about a sequel or a series of movies that explore other, more dangerous villains in Stine’s cannon. I really wanted to like this one, but quick action and big CGI doesn’t glaze me over to the lackluster plot. I would have liked to have seen what Tim Burton could have done with something like this but alas, we may never know. I give Goosebumps 2 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Check out the trailer below:
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