Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: "Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween" is an overly-silly kid movie

Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween Review

I saw and reviewed the first "Goosebumps" movie a few years ago and I could enjoy it even though it was a fairly, overly-silly Halloween movie. I can appreciate it. There really aren't many Halloween style movies that families can go to together. I remember reading some of the Goosebumps books from R.L. Stine, a kind of Stephen King lite writer. I remember for the time, some of the stuff was scary. But only scary to young adults. Stine wrote young adult fiction, so there was certain style of spooky you were getting with a Goosebumps book. Even though some of the artwork for those books still might give me nightmares if I ever bothered to look at it again.

On the level of what it offered, the first "Goosebumps" movie was lots of fun. Sure, it was a silly, silly movie, but there was stuff for people of all ages. It was also a movie stocked with nostalgia if you were a fan of this series as a kid. I thought it might be story suicide to actually make R.L. Stine a character in the movie, but it fit the context of the story. The first film was a celebration of all things Goosebumps. I was hoping this sequel would continue that celebration for another October month.

Much like its predecessor, "Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween" is a very silly movie. If you are wondering if its sillier than the first, I am actually not sure. Its been so long since I've seen the first film that I can't remember most details, but if I had to guess and based on my memories, its about as silly as the first film. In fact, had "Goosebumps" never came out, you wouldn't really know this is a sequel. This feels like an entirely different adventure, with "Goosebumps" as a brand name. None of the main characters from the first film are back here, and Jack Black's R.L. Stine is sadly sidelined for at least half the movie. I actually rather liked Jack Black the first time around, Black is good again, I just wish he came out to play more in this one. 

Anyway, it would almost feel like this "Goosebumps" franchise might be an anthology series, but they do mention the events from the first film. There is some business of getting Stine's creations back into the books. I am not sure why so many professional critics are coming down hard on this one. Yes, I am disappointed that we didn't get more Jack Black. Yes, its essentially the same movie as last time. But these are family movies. They provide a little something for everyone. I may even agree that the first one provided more and this is more kid-oriented than the last movie. But there is still an ability to entertain, even if those being entertained are your little ones. There are still moments where adults will laugh out loud with their children.

Slappy the ventriloquist dummy returns, being a break out villain in the first film. I love how Mick Wingert voices him sounding like Mark Hamil's Joker from "Batman: The Animated Series." Jeremy Ray Taylor from "IT" does a good job in the lead role and there is a huge host of recognizable actors, such as Chris Parnell and Ken Jeong and Wendi McLendon-Covey, but all are totally under-utilized. This movie mainly focuses on its younger cast, and its honestly hit or miss as far as performances go. I try not to beat up to hard on child actors, but when they are front and center, they got to sell the movie and that can be difficult with no-namers. 

Overall, I'd say if you got buddying horror fans at home and you want to take them to something Halloween related without traumatizing them, "Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween" is your best bet. It's fun, its got some funny material, and its friendly enough for the children. I may not be as over-the-moon as I was years ago, but its a just follow-up.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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