The most surprising thing about Goosebumps is that it’s a pretty enjoyable movie. That could seem like a damning thing to say about a horror film of all things; however, knowing Goosebumps, a transition to the big screen could be very hit or miss. In Jack Black’s new horror-comedy, it’s more of a hit.
The first half hour of Goosebumps is boring. We meet the film’s protagonist, Zach (Dylan Minnette), who recently moved from the city to suburbia much to his dismay. He and his mom (Amy Ryan) are mourning the loss of his father, and his mom thought a change of scenery could help. They’re welcomed to town by his ridiculous aunt (Jillian Bell) and the girl next door, Hannah (Odeya Rush)—until her father, the one and only R.L. Stine (Jack Black), yells at Zach to stay away from her. Before long, Zach befriends the typical dorky kid and discovers that Stine’s rude demeanor is more than some fatherly overprotectiveness.
Once you jump past all of this, the real fun begins. An accident causes a couple of R.L. Stine’s monsters to be set free, one of them being the notorious Slappy the Dummy. Feeling particularly vindictive, Slappy wreaks havoc on Stine, the kids and their town by unleashing more Goosebumps monsters. It’s up to Stine and the kids to save the town using their own imaginations.
There’s something charming about Goosebumps. The film does a decent balancing act between comedy and “horror,” which I only put in quotes because I’m sure the film won’t be scary for older kids and adults, although I did jump a couple times. (It doesn’t take much to spook me.) Mostly, as we consider the nostalgia factor, the film showcases the spirit of R.L. Stine’s bestselling series. It might not be a direct adaptation of one of his books, but it exemplifies the essence of the stories in a way that’s hard to not appreciate. (Plus, the real R.L. Stine does make a cameo.)
Goosebumps shows the power of fiction, how a story and characters can mean something so powerful to a writer that they could become real. Obviously, the film takes on this interpretation literally, but its sweet message to teach kids about using books, writing, and other artistic mediums as an outlet for the ups and downs in their lives is one of the better messages I’ve seen in any kids movies as of late.
The end of the film funnily teases a sequel, and I have to admit I wouldn’t mind one, in hopes that it keeps its charm and holds back a little on the over-the-top hijinks.
Goosebumps is now playing in theaters.