“Goosebumps” is a reminder to never judge a book by it’s cover.
We all know not to judge a book by the cover, but from time to time, we still do. At face value, this film looks, feels, and sounds like your typical kid adventure story. A new kid, Zach, played by Dylan Minnette, moves to a new town with his mom and worries life in Madison, Wisconsin won’t be as fun as his old life in New York. Things brighten up as he meets the girl next door, played by Odeya Rush, shortly followed by her mysterious father played by Jack Black, who happens to be the famed R.L Stine. If you take this film at face value, you wouldn’t give it a second thought or wince at the thought of taking your kid and enduring this for two hours. However, good news is this is one of the few cases in film where it’s not exactly how it seems to be. Sure, it’s DNA is still a bit trite for the first twenty minutes or so, but everything after is new, original, and interesting.
The film was directed by Rob Letterman, who’s known for his decent forays into animated and other children’s films you’ve probably forgotten by now. With that said, Letterman did a good job with this film for the most part. He did manage to bring this creative envisioning of R.L Stine’s world to life in a great way. He also managed to keep the film fun for kids as well as adults. The real shortcoming in his performance in this film is in the supposedly scary scenes. Even though it is a film for kids, you would expect a few more abrupt or sudden jolts, just to keep the audience on their toes. When monsters are revealed lurking behind corners, it’s a mix of boring expectation and lack of jolting and sudden shock. The cinematography was great and the choice of Dolby Digital was too. It really makes the sound rock not just your ears but resound through your entire body, only emphasizing some of Letterman’s missed opportunities here.
The screenplay was good. Like any good R.L Stine novel, it was full of expected premises that were turned upside down with interesting and unexpected twists and turns. The humor involved had a lot of jokes for kids, but also plenty of humor geared towards adults. Nothing dirty or obscene, but some things kids wouldn’t get. This isn’t bad, but at the end of the day your audience is children and although it’s nice to throw in a few nods towards the parents and adults, it’s best to keep it down to a few jokes. The series of Stephen King jabs the characters make at Jack Black’s R.L Stine was very funny throughout.
The performances were good throughout. Odeya and Dylan may only be 18 but if they keep steadily improving, they could be major talents in the coming years. Dylan has certainly proved he’s ready for a much meatier lead roles. The list of supporting actors and actresses is stuffed with hilarious additions, such as Workaholic’s Jillian Bell and Veep‘s Timothy Simons. Best of all, however, was Jack Black’s portrayal of R.L Stine. Although Stine has said that Jack’s protrayal of him is a little different from who he actually is, he did a good job of keeping the character mysterious, funny, and sinister. He could’ve very, very easily fallen into overacting and exaggerating everything, but he manages to avoid that. He’s a joy to watch throughout.
With Halloween coming up, I’m sure you’ll be looking for a non-slasher option. Look no further as this is actually a good watch. It is very watchable and without too many moments that make you think you’ve seen it a million times before, as is the case in most other kids movies. If you’ve got kids, this is a sure fire winner.
We screened the film at a special screening of GOOSEBUMPS presented by Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime. Following the screening, guests headed next door for a family-friendly after party atDave & Buster’s.