I got a kick out of the "Goosebumps" books growing up. I read several of them, and honestly I wish I knew what happened to them. I would have loved to have held onto some of them for my children in the future. To see if they found a love for comedic-horror-fiction as I have. R.L. Stine is like the comedic Stephen King, and I always liked how his books were both creepy and funny in equal measure. I loved that he created a cast of characters that was every bit as bright as any other book series. They have always been a fun read, and I enjoyed reading them when I was young.
"Goosebumps" the movie is very much in the spirit of the books, even though it isn't based on any of the individual books. I remember thinking using R.L. Stine as a character might have been silly, it actually works in a wacky way that I found surprising. I also liked that the movie had fun with lots of familiar horror movie cliches without going too far overboard. There isn't anything at all in this movie that is particularly scary. This is a movie that is more geared toward children, but that's okay. That is very much in the fashion of the books, it was a children's fiction series so it should be fitting in the movie. I'd be lying if there weren't moments in this that made my crack a smile, so I think the film did its job.
Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) is moving from the big city to a small town with his mom (Amy Ryan) who just found a job at the local school as vice principle. Zach didn't particularly want to leave and he doesn't like the small town living, but he supports his mother. When moving in he finds that he is attracted to his next door neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush). She seems normal, but there is something off about her, just like there is something off about her mysterious father. In order to find answers, Zach breaks into Hannah's house with his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee). Boy oh, boy does Zach find some answers. Zach find out that Hannah's mysterious father is none other than R.L. Stine, the famous author of the "Goosebumps" books, and that all of Stine's creations are real and live in the manuscripts which Stine hides from everyone. If you were to unlock these manuscripts all the monsters and ghouls R.L. Stine has ever invented come rushing out of them. Led by Slappy The Dummy (voiced by Jack Black), they begin to terrorize the town.
Not only does Jack Black provide the voice for Slappy The Dummy, he also stars as R.L. Stine. Its a typical Black performance, but he allows himself to soar. Slappy the Dummy is easily the most iconic of all of R.L. Stine's creations, and I liked that he was front and center here. Black was able to create a voice that was chilling and humorous and I honestly didn't know it was Black until I looked it up afterward. His performance as R.L. Stine is quite good, and I think R.L. Stine makes something that is completely his own. I don't know anything about R.L. Stine's life or what inspired him to write, but Black's performance makes us believe in Stine and everything that he ever has done, which is pretty good.
The young cast is also equally strong. Minnette and Rush create a believable and sincere young love interest with each other. They also make good use of the film's childish humor, not making it come off so silly. The younger cast embraces the more kid friendly parts of the movie, and allows the audience to buy into it as well.
I liked that the movie featured one last little spook right before the credits. I liked that there was a movie that families could go to this time of year, since the cinemas are usually littered with R-rated horrorfests each year. I liked the real R.L. Stine cameo in the movie. I liked the fun Stephen King comparison joke in the movie. But most of all, I liked that this movie completely embraced the atmosphere and joy of the book series, and created a movie that almost perfectly reflected them.
FINAL GRADE: B+