It may tick every cliche in the big book of family movie cliches book, but Goosebumps is an entertaining and knowing romp.
Like a lot of kids I was a big fan of the Goosebumps books as a kid, so the prospect of this big screen adaptation was exciting, especially when it started to get good reviews as well.
The story centers on a teen called Zach who moves to a new town with his Mom after the death of his father and finds himself living next to Goosebumps writer RL Stine (Jack Black) himself, which leads to the discovery of Stines books, which when opened, release the monsters from their pages.
What is essentially an average story on paper is elevated by excellent performances, particularly from a restrained Black, a clever, funny script from scribe Darren Lemke and a load of good CGI and exciting set pieces. The in-jokes to the series, as well as jabs at Stephen King all prove this to be smarter than the average book to movie adaptation.
The film’s central villain, Slappy the ventriloquist dummy (also voiced by Black), provides a creepy antagonist and the hordes of monsters from the pages of the books all do a good job of making you reminisce your childhood happily. Though my most memorable books from the series were the ones that would be harder to represent in this Film (Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Say Cheese and Die!), the pang of recognition for the creepy garden gnomes, amongst others, proved a welcome joy.
The Film reminded me most of Cabin in the Woods, the monster mash that threw together all of Horror’s creepiest creatures, but takes a more friendly approach to the subject, whilst retaining a kid friendly scariness.
The cast is game, the teen actors fill out their roles with good performances that don’t ever fall into annoyance but rather prove to be actively likable and the adults, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell, and the aforementioned Jack Black, all seem to be enjoying themselves. Jack Black gives an excellent restrained performance that is purposely hammy in the funniest way, his delivery of some certain lines are goofy, and they’re meant to be.
The story has its cliches, but they don’t derail a romp of a movie that can be exciting, emotional and even, in the greatest Goosebumps fashion, twisty. With a score from Danny Elfman, that had it been by anyone else would have been called “Very Danny Elfman” and a script that from the beginning feels like it’s meant to look like an actual Goosebumps story, this is very much worth your time.