Goosebumps - Review

Just in time for the Halloween Season, Goosebumps The Movie comes along.
Based on the hugely popular spooky kids books from author R.L.Stine (along with the Goosebumps TV series), the Goosebumps movie follows a quite different plot than initially expected.
Instead of going the safe Twilight Zone route by simply adapting three or four separate Goosebumps stories, Goosebumps came up with a storyline that incorporates almost all of the iconic Goosebumps villains into one movie.
After the first Goosebumps trailer hit, the movie gained quite a lot of interest due to its Jumanji-esque adventure feel and big emphasis on tributing the original books.
But does Goosebumps actually cause any goosebumps or are you better of just re-watching the Goosebumps TV show?

The plot:
Upset about moving from a big city to a small town, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door. But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach's comes when he learns that Hannah has a mysterious dad who is revealed to be R. L. Stine (Jack Black), the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series. It turns out that there is a reason why Stine is so strange... he is a prisoner of his own imagination - the monsters that his books made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it's suddenly up to Stine, Zach, Hannah, and Zach's friend Champ (Ryan Lee) to get all of them back in the books where they belong..
Source: IMDb

Goosebumps right from the beginning was one of those movies that only spawned relatively little hype whatsoever before its first trailer hit the web.
With a concept that plays around with lots of adventure and humor elements as well as one that pays a whole lot of homage to the nostalgic childhood books many older viewers have fond memories of, the Goosebumps movie has quite a good idea standing behind it.
Luckily, the Goosebumps movie mostly works out pretty well with only a few naggings holding it back. It offers great and simple entertainment for both old and young even though it mostly tends to rely even a bit too much on nostalgia and set-piece moments, making it often feel a bit over-energetic for its own good.

Jumanji flashbacks incoming.

Goosebumps' concept of having fantastical creatures dropped off in a small town to cause mayhem in is easily comparable to a classic 90s movie with a similar concept - Jumanji.
Right from the start it gets clear that Goosebumps primarily works with the same narrative ingredients as Jumanji in quite some ways but aims at a much younger target audience in comparison with lighter themes, a bigger emphasis on comedy and less dark tones (even though its involving horror story characters).
Starting off with many jokes about teenage life, internet culture, etc. in combination with a very straightforward storyline with as good as no twists (except for one specific twist which is admittedly pretty good), Goosebumps never quite reaches any truely deep character relationship drama or thematic depths that help it overcome its "funny little entertaining romp" feel.
Goosebumps therefore easily can be described as a fun ghost house ride in its entirety - a ride that is exciting and spooky fun as you do it but also one that won't keep you thinking for long about it once its over.

You're supposed to sit back, have fun and not think about the story too much.

What Goosebumps lacks in narrative depth and themes though, it makes up for with a tremendous amount of energy and kid/teenager friendly humor along with loads of tributes to the classic Goosebumps novels and characters. Of course all of it wouldn't matter if the characters in Goosebumps weren't likable in the first place, but luckily enough the movie features a rather small but charismatic and colorful enough set of characters to keep the movie's comedy and occasional emotional scenes afloat. From the more down to earth Hannah, to the protagonist hero teen Zach over to the over the top goofballs R.L.Stine (Jack Black) and especially the nerdy Champ, they all fit together very well with their characteristic traits to make each ensemble scene a joy to watch.
What has to be said though, is that expectedly Goosebumps' main attraction, which is the scenes with the monsters causing chaos in the town, works only in its fullest with viewers that have actually read the original stories of those character (or at least watched the TV show episodes). While you can of course also enjoy the movie quite a lot without any knowledge about the characters, there is a high chance that the appearances of popular villainous characters like the Werewolf of the Fever Swamp, The Abominable Snowman or most notably Slappy the dummy (one of THE main villains in the Goosebumps books) won't come off nearly as impressive and memory inducing.

This is probably as scary as it's ever going to get in the movie.

Being pretty much one big nostalgia trip wrapped into a fairly generic adventure comedy storyline, it often feels though that Goosebumps has troubles implementing all of its iconic monsters and villains effectively and meaningfully into its greater story arch. Even though Goosebumps keeps up a fittingly fast pace and dynamic that as good as never lets up, oftentimes it feels as if many action set-pieces in the movie don't tie into the story all too well. It occasionally makes Goosebumps feel unfocused once you realize that quite a few scenes seem to only take place so that the movie can show off some neat action with an iconic monster, only to let the heroes stumble into yet another set-piece that doesn't affect the characters or story outcome in any way. This is when Goosebumps' fan service clearly feels a bit like filler till the movie's actual plot points progress and come together in the final act. Fortunately though Goosebumps manages to masque this fairly well by making the action set-pieces so exciting and full of energy and comedy that it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

The one time that book burning actually sounds like a good idea.

Effectswise, Goosebumps certainly won't gain any award nominations. Creatures and other visual effects look quite artificial and comicy here, although not hampering the overall fun too much. Seeing it all in the light of Goosebumps being a family-friendly adventure movie though, it becomes quickly clear that the not-too-realistic-looking monsters have most probably been intentionally done that way to avoid actually scaring kid viewers with this movie (even though the Goosebumps books were all about scaring their kid-readers in the first place). If you truely want to see some scary Goosebumps stories, you should clearly rather stick to the Goosebumps TV-series, which was quite more daring in the dark tone and scare department.

Don't expect award winning effects but at least some nice action.

The four main characters in Goosebumps, Zach, Hannah, R.L.Stine and Champ, are as alread said pretty well introduced and compliment each other in great ways to make the several comedic scenes in the movie work out as planned. Don't expect any harsh humor or anything but the usual servicable family friendly fare comparable to the likes of Freaky Friday or 17 Again.
While Hannah is undoubtedly the most boring character of them all and is mostly only there to shake the group up with her down to earth atttitude as well as gender-wise, Zach is the typical charismatic leading hero. There is not too much to tell about them both.
The show stealing performances though are expectedly Jack Black as R.L.Stine and Ryan Lee as the dorky Champ. Even though Jack Black looks NOTHING like the actual R.L.Stine, it's hard to think of anybody who could've sold the character in such an entertainingly hateable but also likable way like Jack Black manages to.
Ryan Lee also goes all out in this movie. His character generally tends to follow the expected tropes of a dorky sidekick, but for a movie of Goosebumps' calibre, nobody would want it any other way. He is a walking comedic relief but probably in the best kind of way here.

Jack Black might not look like R.L.Stine but he fits very well into the movie.

All in all, Goosebumps is no Jumanji but nevertheless manages to hit enough right notes to make for a very entertaining family friendly adventure flick.
Though it is most certainly not the least bit scary, Goosebumps does a remarkable job of making you forget about its narrative shortcomings, cartoony effects and occasionally overly big emphasis on fan service. With that said, Goosebumps bursts with energy and dynamic. The entire movie has a fittingly quick pace that never lets up and leads to a good number of various action set-pieces with many of the most iconic villains and monsters R.L.Stine introduced in his original Goosebumps books. On top of that, the movie's great cast of charismatic characters makes its comedy and story work out servicably well.
Though one can easily spot that Goosebumps definitely lacks the thematic and emotional depth in its overall admittedly thin story to make it a classic, Goosebumps nevertheless is a fun experience while it lasts. While Fans and readers of the original Goosebumps books will definitely get the most enjoyment out of the movie, even for everyone else, Goosebumps does everything exactly as advertised in the trailers - and that's just enough to make it a perfect light-hearted Halloween watch.

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10


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