Goosebumps (2015)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 63%
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Ranked #1,442
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Connections: Goosebumps

After moving to a small town, Zach Cooper finds a silver lining when he meets next door neighbor Hannah, the daughter of bestselling Goosebumps series author R.L. Stine. When Zach unintentionally unleashes real monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it's suddenly up to Stine, Zach and Hannah to get all of them back in the books where they belong. --TMDb
Review by Crispy
Added: October 28, 2015
So let's go back about twenty years or so, when I was but a wee little sprite. I was an avid reader, and R. L. Stine's Goosebumps novellas were one of the two monthly series I waited for each month with baited breath. They had my complete attention when they converted the books into a TV series way back when, but now they've decided to use the franchise for this meta-movie a few decades after their prime. While I'm undeniably a sucker for nostalgia, the concept didn't leave me with a whole lot of hope.

Zach Cooper is none to pleased to move from Detroit to a small town in Delaware after his mom takes a new gig as vice principal of the local high school, but he tries to make the best of it. He's got the typical New-Kid set of problems at school with the closest thing to a new friend being the local dork, a kid named Champ, that comes on just a bit too strong, but there be hope for him back at home. You see, there's a cute, home-schooled girl next door named Hannah Shivers that seems to be interested in him. Sure, her dad's a creepy jerk, that doesn't stop her from taking her new friend into the woods at night to show him her favorite get-away, an abandoned amusement park. Unfortunately, what seems like budding teenage romance is quickly dashed when they're caught by Mr. Shivers, and after Zach overhears a shouting match that ends in a horrified scream, he calls the police on his curmudgeonly neighbor, but the man outright lies to them, claiming that Hannah has moved in with her mom months ago. Fearing the worst, the boy reluctantly recruits Champ to help him break into the house and save the girl, but what they find is even more bizarre. Hannah is just fine, and ran into the boys while they were searching through her father's study. On a bookcase is dozens of manuscripts: Goosebumps to be exact, and each one is locked up tight. In their exploration, the boys accidentally unlock them and the very ink on the page transforms into the monster from the story. You see, Mr. Shivers is actually the one and only R. L. Stine, who's been hiding from the public with his little secret. Now he has no choice but to team up with these kids and reclaim the demons from his very own mind, but one particular baddy has other plans, and he ain't no dummy.

So, right off the cuff, it wasn't bad. It was nothing amazing, and it's undeniably aimed at the same lower age range the original books were, but it's a fun little Jumanji-like adventure with some pseudo-horror elements that will begin to build the foundation of future horror fans. I can't say that it had me enthralled through the running time, but it's a kid's movie, so I'm not really going to fault it for that. What I will fault it for, however, is how the Goosebumps aspect itself was nothing more than monster fodder, a superfluous acknowledgement of the series without delving into the nuances of the characters. For example, the giant mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street makes an appearance, but just as a generic giant insect. In the book, (yes, I'm about to spoil a twenty-two year old kids' novella) we learn that the monster is actually a giant robot and vulnerable to short circuiting. This method of combating the creature isn't even so much as discussed as a means of self defense, despite both a huge fan and the series' author being up against it. Hell, Black's Stine even remarks that he doesn't even remember writing it. This change would have been a nice throwback to the parents in the audience who grew up with the novels, and by giving the kids a more concrete understanding of the stories, they might even be inclined to hunt them down. As it stands, most of the villains are just members in a large mob of baddies. Other than Slappy and that mantis, the only other two that got a memorable scene are the titular creatures from The Abominable Snow Man of Pasadena and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp. Again, they were both reduced to generic, snarling, hairy beasts.

Largely charged with carrying the movie, Odeya Rush and Dylan Minnette handled their characters quite well. I don't think either one of them are on the verge of exploding or anything, but they had an easy chemistry and I had no trouble with them in leading roles. On the other hand, I could certainly have done without Champ. More a fault of the writers than Ryan Lee, he's an overacting coward that drove me up the wall. However,one again it is a kids movie and I'm sure the ten-year-olds will find him hysterical. In the same vein, I have no doubt they'll also enjoy Jack Black doing his best usual schtick as R. L. Stine, but he certainly did the movie no favors in my opinion. Underneath the threatening whisper in his voice, it's the same thing we've seen from him time and time again, and I would have preferred a less animated Stine. With that said, Black pulled double duty here, also voicing the evil ventriloquist dummy, Slappy from Night of the Living Dummy and its sequels. He knocked that performance out of the park. Slappy has always enjoyed a reputation as one of Goosebump's more sinister villains, and that certainly carried over beautifully to the movie.

Truth is, I'm not sure why this project was even worth the effort they put into it. They didn't provide any real nostalgia for the adults, nor did they provide a stepping stone to build new fan's interest in the series, with the possible exception of the Night of the Living Dummy run. Sure, there was a little bit of fun in picking out the characters from the giant mob of monsters, but it didn't come close to the fun Cabin in the Woods provided with that same game. Also, I'm a little upset that the book that got me into the series, Monster Blood, wasn't so much as even mentioned. Might be worth a matinee viewing if your kid is a budding horror fan, but don't expect to relive your childhood with this one. 5.5/10.
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