Nearly a quarter century after the wildly popular R.L. Stine’s children’s books were first published, Goosebumps finally makes its way to the silver screen. After dozens of the novels and a TV show, it’s a bit surprising it took so long to get this adaptation off the ground. Tim Burton was attached to helm in the late 90s when Goosebumps was considerably more popular.
Yet here we are and the long gestating Goosebumps has arrived with a simple and sometimes clever concept. Jack Black plays Mr. Stine himself, who lives in a quiet Delaware town with his teenage daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush). When new kid in town Zach (Dylan Minnette) arrives from New York City, he strikes up a friendship with next door neighbor Hannah while Dad strenuously disapproves and doesn’t even want him crossing the fence to visit. We soon find out why. It turns out that Stine’s original manuscripts for his works are locked down and if they’re opened, the many monsters he wrote about escape. This, of course, occurs. For fans of the series, this means a treasure trove of familiar creatures including zombies and werewolves and giant insects and so forth. Leading them is Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy (don’t call him a dummy though), voiced by Black. It also means a lot of CGI that is decent, but nothing special.
While Tim Burton didn’t direct (Rob Letterman did), this sure sounds like one of his pictures with its Danny Elfman score. Black seems to be having a good time and hams it up a bit. Other performances are adequate (though Minnette is a bit bland). The exception is Jillian Bell as Zach’s love seeking aunt. She seems to stand out lately in everything she does. Amy Ryan has little to do as his mom and Ryan Lee has a couple funny moments as his girl crazy new best bud.
Kids should eat this up and there’s enough fun to keep the adults from checking out. Goosebumps eventually wears a little thin and runs out of interesting situations to put all these dastardly creations (a ho hum sequence with a werewolf terrorizing a mostly empty supermarket doesn’t really cut it). Lovers of these books that have sold 400 million copies have waited quite a while to see Stine’s imagination on the big screen. The results are neither frighteningly good or howlingly bad.
**1/2 (out of four)