Movie Review: Goosebumps (2015)

Synopsis: Shortly after moving to Madison, Delaware with his widowed mother, teenager Zach befriends his next-door neighbor, Hannah despite the unfriendliness of her father. After hearing Hannah scream, believing something bad happened to her and getting no help from the inept police department, Zach breaks into her house with one of his classmates, Champ, and inadvertently learns her father is author R. L Stine when he accidentally releases the monsters Stine had trapped in manuscripts of his books.

Who's in it? The movie stars Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Halston Sage and Amy Ryan.

Review: As someone who never read the Goosebumps books when I was younger (they didn't even come out until I was in high school), I wasn't overly enthusiastic about seeing this movie when it first came out. However, my youngest daughter is going to be auditioning for a play based on one of the episodes from the series based on the books and, since I couldn't find that episode for free, we decided to watch this film instead. I'm going to admit, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

As is the case with a lot of his films, I think Jack Black was a big part of the reason this movie was as fun to watch as it was. His exaggerated portrayal of Stine, painting him as an eccentric and unfriendly recluse was more entertaining at times than the various monsters (though I did personally love the killer gnomes). I'm assuming it was a fictionalized version of the real Stine, but it did make me wonder how much of it was based in reality.

As someone who isn't familiar with the books or television series, I wasn't as invested in the main antagonist, Slappy (also voiced by Black), as my wife and daughter were. But as a fan of horror movies in general, I am always going to appreciate the proper use of a ventriloquist dummy and Slappy had just the right amount of creepiness without crossing a line that would make me feel uncomfortable watching the film with a child (or walking down a dark hallway).

I am also going to say I liked the twist regarding Hannah (Rush), without going into too much detail. It was something that surprised me, partially because I haven't read the books and while the end to her story arch was somewhat predictable, it did fit with the overall tone of the film.

My only real complaint about the movie is there may have been too many monsters. I get the desire to show Stine's full catalog of baddies but due to the time restrictions, it meant the bulk of them got very little screen time that didn't amount to much more than a cameo. Considering most of those monsters were the lead villains in their own books, it felt a little like they were wasted. This is one of those cases when less might have been more.

I'm also a bit on the fence about Champ (Lee). It's one thing to bring in someone as comic relief but I would have liked him a lot better had he played a bigger role. Frankly, other than fighting a werewolf to save the girl he had a crush on (Sage) and making noise when he wasn't supposed to, the character didn't add a whole lot to the movie, he was just there. In fact, I'm still a little confused about Zach's (Minnette) motivation for even calling Champ in the first place.

Final Opinion: I wasn't expecting much but, thanks largely to Black, it ended up being a funny and entertaining film. It's one I'd recommend even if you aren't familiar with the source material.

My Grade: A-


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