Reading is a big part of my life and credit is due where it is deserved. Most might stake their claim on the start of their reading journey to something classic like Shakespeare or maybe something more modern like J.K. Rowling. I heave read those too, but I like to thank the works of R.L. Stine and more particularly, his Goosebumps series. Instead of being a continuing series that tell one big story like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, the Goosebumps books were more like The Twilight Zone anthology where each story told a supernatural scenario that happens to children.
It’s hard to defend the Goosebumps books as masterpieces and to even say that R.L. Stine was a good writer as many stories were taken from preexisting media, but I got my start here for two reasons. The first was that I learned a lot about classic monsters from this series as they ranged from werewolves to zombies to vampires to talking dummies and even giant bugs. Second was that chapters were always ending on cliffhangers, preventing me from putting them down as I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The books are now coming life in it’s own feature film, Goosebumps.
Teenager Zach Cooper (played by Dylan Minnette) moves with his mother from New York to small town Madison, Delaware. He meets his next-door neighbor “Mr. Shivers” (played by Jack Black) who warns him to stay away. Zach meets two other people; a socially awkward geek Champ (played by Ryan Lee) and Mr. Shivers teen daughter Hannah (played by Odeya Rush) who takes a liking to the new kid. One night, Zach hears Hannah’s scream and tries to call the police, but Shivers shoos them away. Zach tricks Shivers into driving to the police station to find out what’s going on.
Inside, he finds a large shelf full of Goosebumps manuscripts. Before a fine Hannah can stop them, he unlocks a book causing a yeti monster to attack. They lure him to an ice rink where Shivers finds them and sucks the monster back into the book. Zach and Champ figure out that Mr. Shivers is actually Goosebumps author, R.L. Stine. When they get back, they find that the talking dummy Slappy (voiced by Jack Black) is angry and takes all the manuscripts where he unleashes every monster created by R.L. Stine. It’s up to the author and the three teens to get the monsters back into the books before they spread chaos around town.
Goosebumps could have been an easy dumb kids story, but I’m surprised that the movie is very self aware of it stories and the jokes that they crack. They take several stabs at the writing of R.L. Stine and his work, yet manages to pay enough of a homage that it doesn’t seem too mean. While some of the monsters like the yeti and the werewolf are CGI (not rendered that well), the rest look very well, especially Slappy who’s both creepy and funny.
The story itself is a good set up (kind of a cross between Jumanji and Gremlins) and adapting individual stories are not plausible are most were too short. The problem here is that it moves at such a fast pace that I rarely have a chance to catch up. It’s not that trying to spew a lot of plot, but the action scenes are fast to get to another. For what they do though, they are entertaining.
Jack Black makes for a good R.L. Stine as does everyone else. The main character Zach could have used more personality, but I didn’t mind as the monsters and the author were the real stars and what audience are going to want in the end.
I’ll give this four Goosebumps books out of five. Goosebumps knows who it’s audience is; children that read the books and nostalgic fans from the nineties. I probably would have liked it more had it gone darker, but I appreciate Sony for making a spooky movie for families. If you liked the books, then you’ll probably enjoy Goosebumps.