“… everything I could have wanted out of a Goosebumps movie.”
When I sat down to watch Goosebumps last night I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve already talked about how kids movies can be very hit-or-miss, so I kept my expectations very low for Goosebumps. Luckily what I found when I finally watched the film was an absolutely brilliant amalgamation of R. L. Stine’s work, that still manages to be enjoyable as hell. When his mom gets a job as a vice-principal, Zach (Dylan Minnette) is forced to move to Delaware. What he finds when he gets there is a very strange neighbour (Jack Black) who is not only secretive, but also very… well, he’s an asshole. The problem is he has a daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush), that Zach instantly falls in love with. Things take a turn when Zach and his other new friend Champ (Ryan Lee) break into the neighbour’s house, find a whole lot of Goosebumps manuscripts, and open on of them to find that doing so released a monster into their otherwise peaceful town. This only escalates when all of the monsters eventually get released, and all of the children as well as the neighbour (who is revealed to be R. L. Stine) have to stop them. I just realized that writing it out, the plot sounds like a real mess. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it absolutely works.
To say Goosebumps blew my expectations out of the water would be an understatement. I honestly don’t think that there was anything in Goosebumps that I didn’t like. First of all, the writing was absolutely amazing. Not only did the story work, despite it being outlandish to say the least, but everything in the movie felt both natural and enjoyable. I understand that Goosebumps is a “kids movie”, but it is so much more than that. When I was laughing at the jokes it was because they were legitimately funny, not because I was laughing at the film’s attempt at humour. Goosebumps never once seems to pander to its target audience, but instead presented itself as it was which not only makes the film more interesting for children but it also makes it bearable for adults. The characters that we meet are absolutely hilarious. Sure there are moments where you can tell that these kids (who, by the way, look 20) are stereotypes, but the film leans into that while also subverting it if that makes sense. You have your nerdy friend, and he plays the part well, but the character is so much more than the “nerdy friend”; he has heart and he is able to carry scenes by himself instead of just being a punchline. I also appreciate that Goosebumps didn’t take itself too seriously, allowing every character to show a little comedy throughout the film. Of course the writing is brought to life by the brilliant performances that are all over Goosebumps. Now like I mentioned, these characters aren’t the deepest ever but they still have a lot of heart; this can be seen in any one of the characters in the movie. Dylan Minnette does a great job as the film’s lead, Zach, by not only providing an audience surrogate but also being charismatic as hell. The relationship between him and Hannah felt real, and although the character was a little hokey at times Minnette seems to handle it with grace. You also have Odeya Rush who did a great hub as Hannah. Much like Zach, Hannah gets little hokey at times but Rush was able to prevent it from getting out of control. I appreciate that she was the most experienced character (besides Stine himself) which allowed us to get a badass character out of what otherwise could have been just a love interest. You also have Ryan Lee as Champ who did a great job as both the comic relief and the tag-along friend. Most of the jokes did come from Lee, but like I mentioned before each character really got their time to shine. When the jokes were delivered by Lee, his timing was wonderful. Even the jokes that are obviously aimed at children were hilarious coming from him. And of course you have Jack Black who did a great job as the man himself, R. L. Stine. Black managed to still bring a lot of “Jack Black” into the role, but he surprised me by allowing a lot of other influence into the character as well. Anyone familiar with Black’s work will know that he is very much akin to a Chris Farley, in that he is loud and he falls over. This isn’t a dig, because he is really good at playing that character, but it was nice to see that he was able to tone it down and at the same time inject something we haven’t yet seen from him into the character.
Another thing that stood out to me when watching Goosebumps was the fact that, although the film was filled with most of Stine’s creations, each one got it’s own personality. It would have been easy to just have a load of CGI shit follow our characters throughout the film, but with each monster came different challenge which was really great. It not only made the movie better, but it also made the world feel more real. It made me believe that these character that had been written by Stine had come to life. The only thing about Goosebumps that even borders on a complaint for me is the CGI. Now, I’ve mentioned this a few times, but I’ll mention it again; not only is CGI hard to do well, but it is even harder when the character you are creating is a cartoon to begin with. Sure the abominable snowman didn’t look real, but that makes sense because abominable snowmen aren’t real. If you look at creations that are more grounded in reality, you’ll se that Goosebumps actually did a really good job. One that comes to mind is the horde of garden gnomes. Again, it would have been easy to just make these guys completely CGI but instead they gave them character. Instead of these monsters looking like they were made of of plastic, they kept true to the fact that they are made out of clay, and that made them all the more charming. Instead of just moving their arm, they had to essentially break their arm in order to get it to move. This was an added detail that made the movie so much more enjoyable for me, and I appreciated seeing how much care went into the design of these creations. I also appreciated the fact that Goosebumps used practical effects whenever it could. This was most apparent in Slappy, where instead of opting for CGI they chose to use an actually dummy, but it was also done with a few other creations. I’m a huge fan of practical effects, so I appreciate it when a film does what it can to stay as practical as possible.
Ultimately Goosebumps is a very enjoyable movie. Not only does it manage to be fun for all ages, but it is also very faithful to the source material. The writing is good, the acting is good, it has action, it has scares, it has comedy, it’s honestly everything I could have wanted out of a Goosebumps movie.
I give Goosebumps an A