GOOSEBUMPS (USA | Australia/PG/103mins)
Directed by Rob Letterman. Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Ken Marino, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell.
THE PLOT: When Zach (Dylan Minette) and his mother move in next door to Mr Shivers and his teenage daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush), it is not long before Zach discovers the secret that Mr Shivers is trying to keep; he is actually the author R.L. Stine and, when the original manuscripts for his famous books are opened, the monsters inside are set free into the world. It is up to Zach, Hannah and Stine to save the day, and put the fictional monsters back between the pages of the books again.
THE VERDICT: There has been talk of a ‘Goosebumps’ movie for many years now, and with over 180 books in the series and a successful TV show in the past, this is not surprising. Although there is a feel of Jumanji 2 about the entire ‘Goosebumps’ affair, the film is surprisingly fun, filled with nostalgia and plenty of scares for the younger ones in the audience.
Jack Black leads the cast as Mr Shivers, later revealed to be the author of ‘Goosebumps’, R.L. Stine, hiding out under an assumed name. For those who fear that Black is in full over the top, high kicking mode, you are in for a surprise; although the actor does get quite a lot of strong one liners, he is unusually subdued, and brings a sense of weight to the film that it benefits hugely from. Amy Ryan doesn’t have a lot to do except play a mother, Jullian Bell has a couple of good scenes as Zach’s aunt Lorraine and Ken Marino turns up for a handful of scenes as the high school coach. As far as the kids go, Dylan Minette, Odeya Rush and Ryan Lee as Champ are all fine in their roles, making each character distinct and charming enough for the film to work.
The screenplay, written by Darren Lemke does not focus on just one of Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ stories, and instead makes the clever move of making the film about Stine himself and the monsters he creates through his imagination. As mentioned, there is a feel of Jumanji about the film – although this is not a bad thing – and even though the film is never going to be truly scary for anyone over the age of 14, there is fun to be had with this adventure movie about the misfits saving the day.
Director Rob Letterman has created a fun and over the top adventure in ‘Goosebumps’; one that has a nostalgic feel and is not afraid to be a little dark and a little scary – bucking the seeming recent trend that kids films have to be light and fluffy. The film struggles with pacing during the establishing scenes, but once the first book is opened, the film gets a much needed kick into gear. The characters are underdeveloped however, and although there is a lot of fun to be had with the film, there is a feeling of familiarity mixed in with the nostalgia that works against the film as a whole.
In all, ‘Goosebumps’ is familiar but fun, and camp and over the top as you could hope. Black carries the film in a toned down role, but none of the characters are particularly well developed. The Monster Mash is the main attraction here, and it works well as an adventure movie, just don’t expect the characters to be anything more than stereotypes.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5Familiar but fun
  • filmbuff2011

    This reviewer has no awareness of Goosebumps, a popular series of children’s spooky stories written by American author R.L. Stine. It’s a shame actually, as this reviewer loves all things spooky. Arriving a little late on these shores (it opened just in time for Hallowe’en in the US last year), Goosebumps the film is a jaunty ghost train that is certainly spooky but with its tongue firmly in its cheek (or sticking out of it, to go with the theme).

    Teenager Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves to a sleepy nowhere town in Delaware with his mother Gale (Amy Ryan). He quickly befriends the nice girl next door, Hannah (Odeya Rush) who welcomes him to the town with open arms. Less welcoming is her blunt father and writer R.L. Stine (Jack Black) who warns him to stay away. But he can’t… and that results in Zach stumbling upon Stine’s collection of original manuscripts, all of which comes with locks. When he decides to open one up, he unleashes the wild creations from Stine’s over-active and darkly funny imagination that are kept locked up. Leading the way is malevolent dummy Slappy (voiced by Black), along with the Abominable Snowman, a werewolf, giant mantis, mischievious gnomes and one gooey blob…

    Goosebumps was at one stage set to be directed by Tim Burton in the 1990s. Even though Shark Tale director Rob Letterman has taken over the director’s megaphone for this one, there’s still an anarchic, colourful Burtonesque feel about it. That includes Danny Elfman’s score, which is ideal in tone. Although this film is being aimed at families, there’s still enough here for adult horror fans like this one to enjoy. The horror in it may be mild (and sadly toned down to get a PG) but there are some chuckles to be had in Stine’s creations. They’re so wildly inventive that they feel like a 1950s mad scientist threw them into a big pot, stirred them and then served them up with a wicked smile. It’s a delicious, frequently chaotic concoction that is sure to delight children and adults alike.

    Black is funny, but in a dark way like he was for Bernie. He gets the character (and author) just right, while keeping him manic and silly too. Less successful are the rubbery CGI monsters, which aren’t quite up to ILM standards. The animation, by Sony Pictures Animation, looks a bit cheap and the gloomy, mostly useless 3D doesn’t add anything except for one well-placed 3D effect. Goosebumps is mostly predictable and also lacks the edgy bite of its closest 80s counterparts, Gremlins and The Monster Squad. Despite all that, there’s still enough to enjoy here. Slappy and the gnomes are worth the price of admission alone. ***

    • Clive Bower

      Jack Black what can i say fantastic again, kids loved this film went to see it twice they liked it so much, great flick well worth a watch.