By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B (3 stars)
Sony Pictures Animation, the studio that brought us Open Season, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania strikes again with a live-action/CG animated family romp based on the popular Goosebumps children’s books written by R.L. Stine with producer Neal H. Moritz (Fast & Furious franchise, Bruce Almighty, 21 Jump Street) producing the film. I remembered back when I was a kid in elementary school and enjoyed reading the Goosebumps books, they were gross, they were weird, scary, quirky, and a ton of fun, and I recall watching a few episodes of the Goosebumps TV series from the 90s on Fox Kids.
When I first heard about Sony’s Goosebumps movie, I honestly thought it would bomb, because while I enjoyed the Goosebumps TV series, it was incredibly cheesy in the visual and story department. But when I read about the premise, I started to have second thoughts and said “You know, this just might work!” the Goosebumps movie features a character version of R.L. Stine portrayed by Jack Black (School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda, Tropic Thunder) and the monsters he created escape his books and into the real world, it’s a pretty similar premise to the 1995 Robin Williams movie, Jumanji when you really think about it.
Once I started watching the film, it quickly won me over, the plot is cleverly put together and Jack Black’s performance is over the top fun as R.L. Stine, and the monster special effects and animation are very creative. I’m not sure how it holds up to the original books or TV series because it’s been a very long time since I last read and watched them, so I’ll be summing it up as a movie on its own as usual.
The film focuses on a teenage boy named Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette-Let Me In, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) moving into a new neighborhood with his mom. Upon getting to their new home, he meets a girl named Hannah (Odeya Rush-Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Giver) who is the daughter of their creepy neighbor (Jack Black).
Hannah’s dad at first does not like Zach and wants him to stay as far away from Hannah and his house as possible. But when Zach hears Hannah scream from the house, he and his new friend, Champ (Ryan Lee-Friday Night Lights, Super 8, This Is 40) break in to see if she’s okay, however during their little investigation they find a bookcase filled with manuscripts for the Goosebumps books and soon realize their neighbor is the author of the Goosebumps books himself, R.L. Stine.
Unfortunately, things get into a weird, gross, and spooky situation when the books are unlocked and all of the monsters R.L. Stine created break free from their literature prisons and begin to cause mayhem in the real world such as an Invisible Boy, a Living Dummy, a giant Mantis, evil garden Gnomes, Werewolf, and the Abominable Snowman to name a few. So R.L. Stine and Zach must put aside their differences and join forces to capture all the monsters before they put an end to the neighborhood and Stine himself.
Overall, Goosebumps is definitely one of the most entertaining family movies I’ve seen all year. It’s not Oscar material like Inside Out or as energetic as Hotel Transylvania 2, but it has enough humor, creativity, and decent characters to keep it afloat for all ages, it’s not just any other kids’ movie, adults can enjoy it with their kids as well.
The designs and animation on the monsters are full of creativity and most of them resemble their book and TV appearances, but my only real problem with the film is that the Dummy was a little off. Not to say it was terrible, but it wasn’t nearly as creepy as the Living Dummy from the book, it seemed like they were going for a more comedic tone with him, but aside from him they all look great.
Jack Black makes a perfect R.L. Stine, he does a marvelous job portraying that angry, mysterious next-door neighbor type of character and I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual R.L. Stine and Jack Black have a lot in common. Even the young stars are pretty likable, Dylan Minnette as the new kid on the block, Ryan Lee is funny as the geeky best friend, and Odeya Rush as the girl next door, all of them do a decent job portraying their characters and all three of them are very engaging, but most of my eyes were on Black, but I digress.
In my opinion, this is what Pixels should have been, the humor is decent, the characters are developed well, and there’s plenty of screen-time for the supernatural beings out to destroy the world, just replace the Goosebumps monsters with the video game characters and it probably would have been a much better movie than what we got.
If you’re a fan of R.L. Stine’s original Goosebumps books or the Fox Kids TV series, chances are you’ll scream with joy with this new Goosebumps movie. Even if you’re just looking for a fun family movie to see during the Halloween holiday, this and Hotel Transylvania 2 won’t disappoint (You can learn more about that in my Hotel Transylvania 2 review!).
It’s a double-dose of Sony Pictures Animation fun this year and I hope Sony’s Angry Birds movie coming out this summer will be just as fun.