Arts, Movies

‘Goosebumps’ Ghouls Are Resurrected From Obscurity By Jack Black

Halloween-time is here and with it comes the usual slew of slasher flicks and creepy-crawler films in 3D that attempt, and usually fail, to really get under an audience’s skin. Goosebumps is no different, but it’s actually quite a bit of fun in its own regard. While it probably isn’t worth the $12 ticket to get in the door, Goosebumps is unexpectedly filled with genuinely funny moments. It’s enveloped in a fun and nostalgic universe for anyone who enjoyed the Goosebumps novels of R. L. Stine.

In the film, Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) moves to Madison, Wisconsin, with his mother after she is hired as the vice principal of a local high school. In typical fashion, Zach’s father recently passed away and Zach has closed himself off from the world around him, finding it hard to connect with people. He meets a nerdy and goofy yet admirable friend, Champ (Ryan Lee), at school and befriends his next-door neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush), although Hannah’s father (Jack Black) doesn’t want Hannah hanging around Zach. Stick with me—the monsters really are coming.

Zach sneaks into Hannah’s home after he thinks Hannah’s father has cruelly punished her, finding Hannah unharmed and a collection of Goosebumps manuscripts that Hannah is protecting. Zach opens a manuscript without Hannah’s knowing and the titular monster of the novel comes to life from the ink on the pages. More novels are opened and the monsters in R. L. Stine’s novels roam about the town causing havoc.

The plot  of Goosebumps is like a Disney-channel movie with a bigger budget. All of the typical “new kid in town” tropes are at play in Goosebumps and none of them feel improved upon or modified in a meaningful way. The new kid in high school has an embarrassing parent who works at the school. He has a hard time meeting anyone. The one friend he does make is the eccentric but funny weirdo who obsesses over women way out of his league. He falls in love with the girl next door. All of these points have been worn out time and time again, but Goosebumps doesn’t seem to notice that or at least try to do anything to make its overdone plot points more interesting.

That being said, the universe that it creates around this underwhelming set-up is actually pretty entertaining. If you’ve read R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, than you’ll probably enjoy seeing a lot of his characters on screen. Some creatures like the Abominable Snowman, the Werewolf of Fever Swamp, and the giant praying mantis are more prominently featured in the film and drive the plot forward in more meaningful ways. Stine’s more creative and wacky monsters like the living lawn gnomes and the egg monsters from Mars also make for memorable moments in Goosebumps, but are less essential to the story. Within the giant horde of monsters that assault Madison, it’s easy to spot some of the most famous and creepy creatures from Stine’s books just roaming about. These characters might not have any real relevance to the film or any of its major plot points, but it’s pretty fun to see some particular characters that were memorable in the books brought to life.

The leading actors and actress in the film are nothing special. They’re over-reactive and embody the cliches that really detract from Goosebumps. They even look like doppelgangers of some of Hollywood’s more famous stars like Mila Kunis and Miles Teller. These might be rather particular observations, but it’s hard to steer away from noticing them throughout the film.

On the other hand, it’s a lot of fun to see Jack Black in a silly roll again. Not that Jack Black takes on many serious roles, really, but many of Black’s films feel like they take their humor seriously and fail in getting sincere laughs. In Goosebumps, it feels like Jack Black’s just having fun with his role. He doesn’t take the job seriously and the film doesn’t really ask him to either. Most likely, The principal reason he’s in the movie is to serve as a big hollywood name to raise the film from its “Disney-channel original movie” status. Black’s name alone could probably account for most of Goosebumps’ box-office earnings.

Goosebumps isn’t a good movie, but it’s not terrible either. It’s provides welcome nostalgia for a book series that hasn’t been in the spotlight for many years. Goosebumps won’t deliver goose bumps, but it’ll give audiences a good chuckle now and again.

Featured Image By Columbia Picture

October 14, 2015