R.L. Stein had penned the first chapter books I had ever read. Goosebumps was a fantastic series that terrified me as a young man in short pants. Tales of ventriloquist dummies coming to life, evil possessive masks, and monster blood were all that I needed to breed a lifetime of insomnia fueled nights watching horror movies and writing about them. Stein himself is an awesome writer and great guy. I couldn't be happier about his media hitting the silver screen, and it's about time.
Firstly, Jack Black is not the first person I would have chosen to fill any role in a Goosebumps inspired movie. However, his presence is not met with resistance. In fact he does a fantastic job of not being his usual self. I think that as his career matures, Black is starting to become less slap-sticky and more serious. Almost like an Orson Wells type actor. Surprisingly, he shows his chops here as R.L. Stein. That's right, this film is based in a reality that has Goosebumps novels and R.L. Stein in it.
A young man and his friend accidentally awaken creatures from the Goosebumps book series and introduce them into the "real" world. Author and adventurer R.L. Stein and his daughter accompany the boys on a courageous journey to save themselves and the world. The movie mixes comedy, in a pretty decent way, with family friendly horror and mild adventure. Terrifying favorites like the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, Slappy the Dummy, the giant Praying Mantis, and the Invisible Boy all make appearances. Along with many others. I was very pleasantly surprised.
This movie is definitely like a darker Jumanji. Similar fantastical elements and scenarios are in effect and drive the story's adventure. The acting doesn't really have a chance to get that deep, so for what we get, it's not that bad. Actor Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee both do a really great job. Lee adds a great, safe and clean comedy element with Minnette as the straight man. It's pretty genius.
Goosebumps is in no way scary. It's not really meant to be. It's great for everyone and definitely safe for all. It plays it safe with a PG rating, but still has recognizable elements of horror. It's really not something that I expected. It's a stand out for sure. It's a shame that a movie with so much promise, had to wait so long before being made. This had apparently been in production hell since 1998. At one point Tim Burton was actually attached. That would have been pretty amazing. George Romero was also rumored to have turned in a draft. I wonder what that would have been?
Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Ryan Lee, and Odeya Rush
Style: Fantasy Adventure Horror
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Did ya know?
As R.L. Stine searches the high school for a quiet place to write his new story, he discovers an empty theater auditorium where the high school theater department had been rehearsing a stage production of Stephen King's "The Shining." The stage set is built to resemble the hotel room. This is a multi-layered visual gag as it references jokes made earlier in the film, when Stine reacts to being compared to "Steve King," and also references the fact that "The Shining" follows a writer in a hotel room.
R.L. Stine makes a cameo and says hi to Jack Black while walking through the halls of the school at the end of the movie. The real R.L. Stine's character name was Mr. Black and Jack Black was Mr. Stine.
Upon seeing the giant preying mantis, R.L. Stine worriedly claims he doesn't remember writing about it in one of his books. The book the giant mantis appears in is "A Shocker on Shock Street". Ironically, the book refers to "Shock Street" as a series of movies ala "Elm Street".