Kids of the 90’s rejoice! The bestselling Goosebumps series by R.L Stine finally gets the big screen treatment, in a new adventure comedy starring Jack Black. So, does it live up to the legacy of the books? And is it any good?
If you’re anything like me, you grew up on the Goosebumps brand. Wildly inventive, alternately funny and scary, the books were a touchstone of my youth. So when they announced a big screen version of Goosebumps, not a single story – just the brand, I was a little concerned. How do you distill the essence of all of these different stories into just one film? The answer: you bring all the monsters together in an orgy of destruction. Simple.
The story follows Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), who after moving to the town of Madison, meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), his new neighbour. Hannah’s father is the grumpy and reclusive R. L. Stine (Jack Black), the Goosebumps author, who keeps all the ghosts, monsters, and villains he’s created locked up in his manuscripts. When Zach and his new friend Champ (Ryan Lee) unintentionally open one of Stine’s books, every monster lurking within is unleashed upon their small town, hellbent on destruction. Now Zach, Champ, Hannah and Stine have to team up in order to put the monsters back where they came from, before they overrun the town and take revenge on their creator for imprisoning them.
If it sounds a bit familiar, that’s because it is, but comfortably so. My brother-in-law summed it up nicely when he likened it to Jumanji, and Goosebumps does really feel like a throwback to those types of movies. There’s characters that you like and actually want to succeed, there’s humour, a couple of scares (although this is definitely more a comedy), and some good CGI-laden set pieces. In particular, the supermarket sequence is a standout, as well as the climatic showdown at the school dance. All of the actors fit their roles nicely, with Jack Black having fun playing against type as the uptight Stine. The character that probably makes the biggest impression is Lee’s Champ, who gets some good laughs, and is a nice twist on the typical friendless nerd character.
I think the only downside that could see is that there isn’t a whole lot in the way of surprises. The movie hits every beat you expect it to, up to and including the epilogue at the end. Not that you’ll really mind though, since the journey to hit those story beats is put together well, you should be willing to switch your brain off for 2 hours and enjoy the spectacle. If you have kids, they’re probably going to love it, and the under 14 crowd was buzzing after the screening I attended. If they’re easily scared though maybe take a bit of caution, it is rated PG, but in the end it’s monsters we’re talking about, some of them are a bit frightening for smaller kids.
All in all, Goosebumps preserves the tone of the beloved book series, and is a welcome throwback to the family adventure movies of the 90’s. If you’re willing to go along for the ride, you might just enjoy the trip down memory lane.
GOOSEBUMPS is in cinemas everywhere January 14.